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Columbus New Plymouth takes the plunge


When it comes to outstanding customer service, the talented teams at Columbus Coffee stores in New Plymouth are a great showcase for this iconic New Zealand brand. Like any great coffee, it's all about the right blend of skills and knowledge.

Both stores recently celebrated their people gaining new levels of professionalism and achievement.

"Right from the start everyone wanted to get on board to gain new skills and a qualification," says Sarah Kennedy, Columbus Coffee line manager in New Plymouth. "Our people really enjoyed the training and its definitely paid off for us."

Two employees at New Plymouth's Columbus kiosk store, and four at the large café at Mitre 10 Mega, have all gained superior skills with the nationally recognised hospitality qualification New Zealand Certificate in Food & Beverage – Level 3, while another team member gained a Columbus Achievement Certificate.

Columbus Franchise Consultant Rowena Cooper, who oversees training and development for the lower North Island and South Island region, says the New Plymouth store owner is totally committed to genuine high-quality customer service and increasing capability.

"Connecting our training with national qualification standards benefits the store, employees and customers," says Rowena.

"It's extremely important to meet customers' expectations for excellent and consistent service no matter which Columbus store they visit. They should be able to enjoy the same flat white and great service from one end of the country to the other."

Rowena, Sarah, and Siale Makatoa, Columbus Coffee kiosk manager, poured their effort into building employees' knowledge by using the CaféIQ assessment system.

"Everyone wants to do the very best for their customers so we worked together to make it happen," says Rowena. "Mitre 10 Mega's training manager also provided access to computers and help for staff with disabilities or who are learning English as a second language."

Created by ServiceIQ, Industry Training Organisation for the hospitality sector, CaféIQ benchmarks a café's own operating procedures and existing training with national qualification standards. This helps café owners guarantee high standards and consistent quality service to customers across the café/café franchise, regardless of location and employee numbers.

"It gives management the confidence that everyone on the team is on the same page and knows how to do the job to Industry and Columbus Standards," says Rowena. "It also means there's confidence in team-leading when a Franchisee or Manager takes leave."

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Columbus Coffee Kiosk Manager Siale Makatoa (left) and staff member Frances Vedder with her qualification certificate.  

According to Rowena, the most valuable CaféIQ learning module is where staff learn the importance of creating an enjoyable customer experience.

"It's one of the most important parts of CaféIQ," says Rowena. "It's a comprehensive programme and you need to upskill in all of it to get the full picture and benefits. When staff have a good understanding of service and how to engage with people, it can have a huge impact on customer satisfaction and frequency.

"When your people are genuine and make you feel welcome, like they do in the New Plymouth stores, it really shows they care and take pride in what they do which then permeates throughout the stores."

Rowena knows first-hand that training must be driven from the top to be effective.

She is an industry expert with over 20 years' experience in successful cafés and fine dining establishments.

When she managed one of the very first Columbus stores in Palmerston North over seven years ago, she led all her staff through formal qualification training.

It proved such a success that many of her people have gone on to manage cafés of their own.

"It's really satisfying to see them do well, and a great reward for me," says Rowena.

Getting Columbus service right is a powerful brew.

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Celebrating success at Columbus Coffee Mitre 10 are (left to right): Delwyn Isdale, Café Manager Sarah Kennedy, Stephen Davis, Betty Lam, Olivia Ansell and Phoebe Davis.