Jacob Jaber is the CEO of Philz Coffee. Everyone who knows Philz knows they’re obsessed with two things: coffee and customers. We reached out to Jacob after we saw Ryan (of Product Hunt fame) talking about Philz, and it was fascinating to learn about their razor-sharp focus on customer happiness and, you guessed it, coffee.
We’ll leave it to Jacob to talk about the company, the mission and his passion for reinventing the coffee experience with Philz.
Let’s get the basics out of the way, first. How many locations does Philz Coffee operate out of?
18 and counting.
And how many personnel per shop?
What are the channels you offer support in?
Twitter (@philzcoffee, @jacobjaber) and Email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Each store also has a number that a customer can text to give feedback.
Jacob, CEO and Phil Jaber, Founder.
Tell us about Philz Coffee and how it all started. How is Philz different from the other coffee shop down the street?
I don’t believe we are in the coffee business. I believe we are in the people’s business serving coffee.
After all, coffee is fun. You can’t take it too seriously. It’s habitual and part of so many people’s days. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to touch everyone’s day with the best damn coffee we can. One day, I want to have 1,000 stores, but the way I look at it is having one store 1,000 times which means scaling mindfully; preserving the core values we work so hard to uphold every day.
Our vision is to reinvent the coffee experience. You start by ordering with a friendly Barista that helps you choose a blend they think you’ll like best, craft it for you on the spot, and add anything you want in it to taste (milk, sugar, etc. or black, as many do). When people wake up in the morning, I want them to say, “Let’s go grab a Philz.” instead of “Lets go grab a latte.”. To that effect, we focus on making coffee that’s special and really personal for everyone’s individual tastes. That’s how we convert thousands of latte/espresso drinkers into Philz Phanatics every month.
The most important people at Philz are the people behind the counter. They are everything. Just like their mission is to better their customers’ days with an amazing coffee experience, our focus as senior leadership is to better their day so they leave their shift saying, “I love working at Philz.”
What’s your mission statement?
Better people’s days.
Walk us through a typical day of the people behind the counter, please.
Every day has us crafting great coffee, delivering exceptional service and engaging with awesome customers and fellow team members. But beyond that, no Philz Coffee team member has the same day. We encourage individuality and want our people to feel comfortable and have fun.
In your ‘The Story Behind Philz Coffee‘ video, your dad talks about how when you hire people, you make sure they’re a great culture fit. How do you check if a potential hire is a culture fit or not?
We have a cultural fit test we’ve created that’s pretty effective. The test is not something candidates see or take. It defines different behaviors and characteristics we desire to see and feel during an interview. It creates alignment in our organisation around what the right “fit” looks like.
How do you motivate yourself (and your team) day in and day out? How do you reward your employees?
We work for the mission, not the recognition. Seeing our customers and team members happy motivates us. So, we tend to focus on the input (recruiting, training, culture) a lot more than the output (P&L’s, scores, etc.)
The very first Philz Coffee shop.
Tell us about your toughest day at work?
Whenever a great team member gives notice that they have to go because they’re moving or doing something. Fortunately this doesn’t happen a lot but when it does it can be hard because our people are our most important asset.
What’s your most memorable customer interaction?
A customer wanted food that we didn’t serve – we said hold on, we then went to get her the food she wanted and brought it back to her on us. She was flabbergasted.
Is there a customer service story that you treasure so much that you make sure every new hire knows about it?
So many great experiences happen everyday that we don’t know about, so we leave it up to our store leaders to tell their individual stories.
How do you unwind after a long day of support?
By taking a walk.
A Philz cup of love
Keeping the culture intact as you scale up across locations must have been tough? What were the challenges and how do you ensure you deliver a top-notch experience across all shops?
As I said, staying focused on the inputs. We want to do a few things extremely well.
Sometimes it’s not about what you do. It’s about what you don’t do and we don’t do a lot so we can do what we do really well.
How do you plan to scale the Philz Coffee experience as you expand across the country?
By focusing on creating a culture filled with great people who are empowered and motivated to deliver an exceptional customer experience. That’s the hardest part of the job.
Have you tweaked coffee recipes based on the feedback from people in different locations where you operate in? How do you solicit feedback from customers?
No. We use OwnersListens which is a great tool that allows customers to text message the Leader of the store.
How do you make sure the Philz experience is also maintained on digital channels like Twitter?
By philosophically viewing online like offline. It’s just a continued conversation with our customers online.
How do you use technology to improve existing processes? And how do you make sure that no matter how automated the processes are, you never quite lose the personal touch that makes you special?
We want to use technology to get technology out of the way so we can spend most of our time focused on our people.
How do you measure customer happiness?
- Customer count.
- Sophisticated sentiment analysis tools.
- Being in the store.
Philz in Sunnyvale. Courtesy.
What has life at Philz Coffee taught you?
Live your passion and be yourself.
In terms of customer service, which company do you admire a lot?
Some hotels do a great job. David’s tea and LuLu Lemon do a pretty good job. I admire our team members a lot as well.
One last question, Jacob. What’s your favorite coffee blend?
Tesora! With honey and a bit of cream. It’s amazing!
We started the Secret Sauce series to find out more about what makes the customer service of some great companies click. We get in touch with one awesome support representative and we pick their brains. We find out what a typical day is like for these support rockstars, their personal work-philosophy, support process and what inspires them to go above and beyond the call of duty to make their customers happy. Know a customer support rep you’d like to see featured here? Drop us a line in the comments or shoot an email to email@example.com with your suggestions.