What I learnt trading coffee for feedback

Coffee for Opinions

Coffee for Opinions

So you have a Thing and you want to get feedback from Real People. Buy them a coffee in exchange for a little time, right?

First, don’t expect busy cafe owner guy to agree. Or care. The first one didn’t. It turns out that offering free coffee sends all kinds of mixed signals for a cafe even if they’re still making money. The question is, are they making additional revenue? In other words, they’ll sell the coffee anyway so why add the complication of putting you in the middle?

Don’t pick a busy coffee shop. They don’t have time to deal with your stupid feedback idea. Find a coffee shop where they have enough time to listen to your stupid feedback idea, but also have customers occasionally so you can actually, you know, get feedback.

Don’t go to a coffee shop with 20-something hipsters. The wifi will be saturated and you want a more representative sample of the population.

Get a sign. Mine was simple; “ask me for free coffee”. I printed it on a piece of paper. The plastic stand, you won’t believe. Staples sells them for $11. $11. And that’s the low end model. There are all types of deluxe super platinum crystal edition stands.

I evolved my idea in to just paying the barista. I kicked it off with a flat $25 tip and $25 behind the counter to buy coffee. About half the customers agreed to free coffee, the other half were too busy. The flat tip gets the barista on your side. To the point of evangelism since it would otherwise take 25 sales to get the same tip. It also vastly simplifies the whole “money changing hands” thing. No awkward cash for every other coffee getting in the way of that valuable feedback time.

Now throw away the sign since barista person is doing the PR for you.

You’re showing them the Thing on a laptop, phone or a tablet right? Make sure you don’t mind crumbs and coffee being spilt all over it. Make sure it doesn’t have all your secret passwords on it. Make sure you don’t mind if it gets dropped or stolen. Basically, buy a cheap android thing.

Show the barista how the Thing works. Now, they’re the ones showing customers and asking for the feedback. Yay! Division of labor!

Next, prepare for feedback.

Whatever you thought you were going to get feedback on, it will be on something else that you actually hear. Getting out of the building and talking to Real People is extremely valuable. Things you thought were obvious will be incredibly complicated for Joe User. Complicated things will be simple.

Write everything down. Everything. I avoided audio or video recording since it would complicate things and might be creepy.

A few hours later, richer for conversations and feedback, poorer $50, you have your data to go iterate on.

Oh and the barista is your new best friend.

One Response to What I learnt trading coffee for feedback

  1. John Abbott January 29, 2013 at 2:25 am #


    Really enjoyed reading this and like the idea. I’ve never really thought about doing Customer Dev in a coffee shop.

    So I am now planning a few Starbucks sessions myself to test a few ideas out. Will let you know how things go down in Winchester and London.

    Hope you’re well


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