A tall cappuccino to go. It should be simple. And yet UAE coffee-shop staff persist in trying to "up-sell", assailing the customer with questions about extra shots, extra flavours and things to eat. The Life consults Patrick Barwise, emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School and chairman of the UK consumer watchdog Which?, about the annoying habit.
Why do sales staff in the UAE do this?
There are [three] possible explanations. First, what is culturally acceptable in the UAE is not the acceptable way to behave in the US and UK. Second, perhaps the acceptable way to behave is the way it's done in the US and UK [but UAE retailers haven't cottoned on]. Third, perhaps what happens in the US and UK is wrong and Costa Coffee and Starbucks should be way more pushy there. This is unlikely. They've been around for a long time and discovered what works by trial and error.
So how pushy should firms be?
That depends on whether the sales staff are going after the maximum profit per transaction or whether they are trying to build up a relationship with the individual and keep the brand's reputation positive. If the individual goes to [the coffee shop] as part of his daily routine I would be more cautious; I'd be looking at the long-term relationship.
I suppose it also depends on the skill of the staff?
Good salespeople are able to make the suggestion that the customer spends more [into] something welcomed by the customer - a good idea they hadn't thought of.
Are people more likely to be irritated when they want a coffee to go rather than to stay?
When you go into a restaurant, you sit down and you are asked if you want a drink. We don't resent that even though we know it adds to the total cost of the bill. It can be done well. The thing with retail in general is the thing people most dislike is waiting. They don't want their time wasted particularly if the salesperson is pushy and lacking in emotional intelligence. If you have skilful staff who have a sense of humour or are particularly good looking ... you can get away with it if you make it a pleasant experience.
Are there any particularly heinous culprits?
The poster child for angering customers is [the budget airline] Ryanair. It's a very successful company and on customer satisfaction Ryanair ranked high originally on the basis that what is was promising was simple: a safe flight that would get you there on time. It was very cheap but no-frills and you knew what to expect. Customer satisfaction with Ryanair went down because they were so aggressive with things like how you pay for a ticket. Even on a debit card what is a 10p transaction would cost £4 or £5. You're paying online so there's no alternative and it's extortionate.
I've not done marketing in the UAE but my advice would be to be very, very cautious because if you get a reputation that you are not a nice place [to be a customer], people will go elsewhere.