Episode 1: How Henry’s House of Coffee Is Re-Creating The Coffee Shop Experience Online

The Kalebjian family has been roasting coffee for three generations, and they’ve taken all that knowledge online through a quiz that helps customers find just the right coffee beans for their personal tastes. As a huge coffee fan myself this quiz was perfectly accurate and I just had to learn more about how they did it.

The Kalebjian family has been roasting coffee for three generations, and they’ve taken all that knowledge online through a quiz that helps customers find just the right coffee beans for their personal tastes. As a huge coffee fan myself this quiz was perfectly accurate and I just had to learn more about how they did it.

Learn more about how Henry’s House of Coffee created a personalized experience for every website visitor in this episode.

Helpful links: – Take the Henry’s House of Coffee Quiz

Podcast Transcript

Josh Haynam: Everyone here, I’m here with Hrag from Henry’s coffee house, a local institution here in San Francisco, where I am based out of as well. Super excited to talk to you today because the way that you’re using a quiz is really similar to the way that I’ve talked about quizzes being used since the beginning of our existence eight years ago. And so when I found how you’re using this quiz, I just knew I had to talk to you. So thanks for chatting with me today.

Hrag Kalebjian: Thank you Josh. I appreciate you having me today.

Josh Haynam: Yeah, so just to kick things off, where did this idea come from? How did you decide to start using a quiz? And can you just give everybody a little context on how you guys are using the quiz?

Hrag Kalebjian: Yeah, of course. So, we launched our website in 2014, and we’ve been doing pretty well over the last five, six years. Just to give you an idea, when we launched, we were doing like 20 orders a month back in 2014, now we do over 800 orders a month. So a lot of growth there, but I come from a finance background, so a lot of the stuff I try to do is as analytical as possible. And what I would notice is through chats on our websites, through emails and conversations, new customers that were coming to our page were confused as to what to buy, they didn’t really know the story of Henry’s House of Coffee, their experience with coffee was all over the place, some people thought they liked the light rules when in fact they didn’t and they wanted something dark. Some people were experts and they wanted a very specific type of coffee.

Hrag Kalebjian: And I thought by having a chat feature on our website would be very easy. But with chats you can only do so much, it’s not 24/7, I’m also working on other stuff so I couldn’t be available all the time. And one of the things that caught my attention was a competitor of ours called Trade Coffee, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of them, Josh.

Josh Haynam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hrag Kalebjian: So Trade, their whole thing is when you land on their page, they start you off with a coffee quiz. And when I saw that, I thought, “You know what, that really reminded me of my dad.” And what I mean by that is when customers come to the shop and they’re looking for coffee beans, they love having that conversation with my dad because he’s like the coffee doctor, he’s having a coffee consultation in a sense. He’s not looking just the sales, he’s really looking to understand. So he’ll ask people, “Do you smoke cigarettes? Are you drinking your coffee with food or just by itself?” There’s a lot that goes into it. And I always thought, “Man, it would cost me so much money to develop something like this. I have no idea where to begin.”

Hrag Kalebjian: And there wasn’t anything like that for years. And then literally like three, four months ago I was like, “Damn it, I need to figure this crap out. I need some kind of a quiz.” And so I Googled… I don’t remember what I Googled, and sure enough Try Interact was one of the first that popped up. And what really got me excited about it was the fact that it was free to try it. A lot of other companies we’re charging, and I was like, “I don’t even know if this shit’s going to work.” Pardon my French. I don’t know if this is going to work. What was really cool with interact was I could build it live without any costs and I swear in day one, as I started sending this quiz out to my friends and family, I was like, “I’m going to pay for this because I really see the power here.” So that’s how it all started for us.

Josh Haynam: Gosh, yeah. I love that. I love the story about your dad because that is exactly how I’ve been pitching interact since the start. I would say, you basically want to recreate the experience of seasoned coffee shop owner. You walk in and they make you feel welcome, they ask you about your preferences, I love the examples like smoking and do you drink your coffee with food, that kind of stuff. And then they recommend something and your likelihood to actually make a purchase, at least from my perspective, I’d be curious to hear yours, seems just so much higher after somebody has given you that connection interaction.

Josh Haynam: I’m curious what you’ve seen in terms of what kind of difference it’s made being able to recommend let’s say a light roast to somebody who filters into that profile versus when people are just presented with a whole bunch of options. Have you seen a difference?

Hrag Kalebjian: Absolutely. I mean, one of the cool things about what you guys have is you have this cool analytics side and what I wanted to see was a couple of things.

Hrag Kalebjian: Number one, I wanted to see were people even using the quiz at all because the challenge with eCommerce is getting people to visit your site and then doing stuff once they’re there. That’s a big challenge. So we did a couple things.

Hrag Kalebjian: Number one, your website does a good job of kind of adding this header piece that slides down to attract customers, so that’s been really cool.

Hrag Kalebjian: And the second thing is we’ve been putting the coffee quiz throughout the site, like right on our homepage that says something like, “Confused? Try our quiz.” So that’s been great.

Hrag Kalebjian: And just to give you some like data, we’ve had, every week, we have about 300 to 400 people doing the quiz or viewing the quiz.

Hrag Kalebjian: And the other benefit of the quiz that we’re able to do is capture leads. And we’re not just using those leads for junk, we’re trying to provide something better. So what that looks like is, “Look, there’s a quiz, we’re trying to help you, we’re trying to guide you on your coffee. If you give us your email address, we’re going to give you a coupon and you can use that for your purchase. So when we recommend, let’s say Henry Glenn, you’ve probably never tried it before, but here’s five bucks off and you can try it.” And the beauty of it, we can see that. And from what I can see from the views all the way down to the lead funnel, it’s about 25% leads. I feel like that’s a pretty good number from what I can tell.

Hrag Kalebjian: And that’s 25% that I don’t think I would’ve gotten if I didn’t have this quiz, or maybe they would have bought something that they didn’t necessarily like because our website didn’t do a good job of guiding them to have options.

Josh Haynam: That’s a really good number of views to leads. And then are you able to track those coupon codes to see how many people actually make a purchase from…

Hrag Kalebjian: Yeah. This is the power of technology. So what we do is we segment those customers based on the type of answers that they’ve selected using MailChimp as our email platform. So with MailChimp we were able to tag these customers as a light roast, medium roast or dark roast. And so in future emails we can segment these customers and say, “Hey, if you like dark roast, here’s a new brand that we came up with. If you’re a medium, blah blah blah.” So not only can we segment them but we can definitely track them based on coupon usage, click rates, a lot of that stuff.

Hrag Kalebjian: And you can get overwhelmed with data, but for me what’s important is this funnel, this quiz that we’ve created, I’m able to see from top of the funnel all the way down to the final sale. And it just gives me more confidence to continue to use the quiz because there’s a cost to it. And most businesses are like everybody else are nervous when they want to pay for something that they don’t know is going to work. My approach has always been stop looking at it like a cost and look at it like an investment. So for me to be able to get the data verifies that this is a good investment and I continue to use it.

Josh Haynam: Yeah. And just for anybody that’s curious, where can people go to take this quiz?

Hrag Kalebjian: Yeah. So if you go to our website, henryshouseofcoffee.com you’ll see it pop up in the header and then you’ll also see it on our homepage. So if you were to scroll down, I think there’s a link that says, “Can’t decide? Click here” And both of those options well will lead you to the quiz. And the other thing we’ve done is we’ve also added the quiz in our main menu and it’s called coffee matchmaker. So that’s our thing, we’re the coffee matchmaker, find your perfect beans, five questions, click now. I mean it’s very simple and it’s very intuitive.

Josh Haynam: Yeah, I love that. I love that.

Josh Haynam: And I’m curious what kinds of reactions have people been giving you after they take the quiz? What’s the feedback? What are they saying?

Hrag Kalebjian: Yeah. I think the best reactions are returning customers that might be skeptical or just want to try it will email me back or respond back and be like, “Oh my gosh, I just took your quiz and it totally recommended what I like. This is awesome.” And that’s an indication that I’ve built the quiz the right way. Because that’s another concern of mine. I was like, “I hope I didn’t F it up. I hope I’m doing this correctly.” So that’s been the biggest benefit is knowing that folks that are using it are getting it.

Hrag Kalebjian: And in fact, Josh, I think you said that in your email, right? You like Kenya light roast? That’s what it recommended, right?

Josh Haynam: Yeah, spot on.

Hrag Kalebjian: Yeah. So again, it’s even more of an indication that the quiz is good, the results that it’s providing is good results. It’s not just like junk because our brand in general is not about business and sales. It’s about our tradition and our heritage of roasting coffee. So when I want to do something, I don’t want it to be a gimmick, I want it to have value. Unfortunately there’s a lot of businesses out there that are doing thing or monetary purposes and hey, power to them, I get it. That’s not who we are though, so I didn’t want the quiz to feel gimmicky, I didn’t want the quiz to feel like all I’m doing is getting leads and I’m going to spam the hell out of you. I want it to truly feel like I’m providing something for you that you’re going to find valuable, and when I reach out to you again, it’s not this generic top five ways to brew coffee, it’s a true deeper relationship that I’m trying to build.

Josh Haynam: Yeah. So let’s talk about that. How did you go about writing those questions in the quiz to help people actually find the right outcome? Because I’m a perfect example, it totally nailed it. So I’m just very curious how you did that.

Hrag Kalebjian: I mean, having my dad is a huge help because he’s just a wealth of knowledge. But we had to dilute it down, I’m always a fan of making things simple, if you can find a simple way to do something you’re going to be successful. I think that comes from my finance background in terms of formulas or reporting dashboards. My boss would always say that the human mind, the psychology of human mind when they’re trying to interpret data, you get overwhelmed really quickly. And one of the benefits of simplifying that is to categorize or group things. And if you can do that in three to five buckets, you’re going to be very successful.

Hrag Kalebjian: So with my experience over the last five years and my father, I was able to kind of dilute everything into five questions. We could have gotten a lot more deeper, but to be honest I think it might not have been as successful because think about yourself when you’re getting a survey, how likely are you to click on a survey or to conduct a survey if it’s 5 questions versus 30 questions? And from a data perspective, how much more are you getting if you’re doing 30 questions or 5. So, it’s a balance. So that was my initial approach. And then a lot of it was just based on questions that I would get from customers, whether it was, would be working in the cafe, the chats that I would get from our website and obviously my dad through the years of “Dad, why did you recommend X? Or why did you recommend Y?” And just came up with these five questions.

Josh Haynam: Yeah, I love that. I love that. And I love the idea of taking that age old information that your dad just has in his head and being able to share it out with a lot more people, that’s just so cool, right? 800 orders a month, you’d be exhausted having to talk to 800 people a month, but now you can do that in a virtual way, and I think that’s incredible.

Josh Haynam: Talk about the emails that you sent. I’m excited to see what else I get in my inbox as a light roast, but how do you have those set up for people that do opt into your quiz? What are you sending them? That kind of stuff.

Hrag Kalebjian: Yeah, good question. The emails is a big opportunity for them to feel like they’re in a relationship with our business rather than feel like they’re just being spammed all the time. And so typically when you have signed up for our light roast email, you’ll immediately get an email saying, “Hey, thanks for signing up for the quiz, here’s a coupon code. Keep an eye out for more additional tips and tricks and things.”

Hrag Kalebjian: But what happens after that is you’re going to immediately start getting an email about “Meet the family” and it’s a video, it’s like a three minute video about the Kalebjian family. Again, because what I wanted to get across right away is we’re not just a website that’s selling coffee, we’re a family based on the tradition of coffee roasting. So you’re going to get a video of meet Hrag and Henry, here’s a little video.

Hrag Kalebjian: And then you go into what MailChimp calls like an email automation and it’s just once a month we’re just going to send you some things. It can be a tips and tricks like the easiest way to weigh out your coffee beans, some five fun facts of coffee. It could be something like Henry’s recommendations, just something that keeps you guys interested in.

Hrag Kalebjian: In there, I also have a video on the struggles of a family business and initially that may feel a little cold and awkward. But again, going back to what I’m all about is letting people realize that this relationship that they’re building with us, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in the background. And the reason why Henry’s House of Coffee is successful is because we’re open and we’re honest. And one of those things is the challenge of working with family, it’s not easy. Josh, I don’t know do your parents own a small business, have you ever worked with them?

Josh Haynam: I have not worked for my parents. Let’s see, I haven’t worked with my family too much. I’ve lived with family though as an adult, so yeah, learning that dance.

Hrag Kalebjian: Right. So, I came from corporate finance and I joined the business in 2013 and the biggest challenge was how to work with my father. And so I wanted customers to feel not the pain, I wanted them to feel that this is something that I really care about. And if you care about something, you’re willing to talk about some of the struggle because the outcome is if you don’t talk about it, if you don’t discuss it, in my opinion, it’s not going to get better. And for me, all I want to do is make this better, I want to be happy, I want my father to be proud of what I’m doing and I don’t want to let him down.

Hrag Kalebjian: So I wanted the customers to feel that, so we made a video about that. And that’s one of the videos that gets sent out in email form to somebody who took a quiz a couple of months ago because now it’s not like they just took a quiz and they’re getting coffee, now they’re a part of our family and they’re really deeply vested in what’s going on in our business.

Josh Haynam: Yeah, that’s awesome. It totally changes the relationship and it’s something that’s really needed is more of that human connection and community and that’s really what we wants to help accomplish with these quizzes, is just facilitating conversation, helping people get to know each other, making things less transactional like you said, you’re not just selling coffee, now you have this relationship, this connection. And I think that’s really, really incredible.

Josh Haynam: I’m curious what your advice would be to other small business owners, especially during this time where a lot of people are trying to move everything online. What are your thoughts around how to get started with something like this? And really more broadly, what’s the best way to take that institutional knowledge like you’re talking about what your dad, what’s the best way to take that and then put it onto your website and recreate that experience?

Hrag Kalebjian: I will start off by saying it’s not easy and it’s extremely difficult to take a business that’s a traditional business to digital, otherwise everybody would be doing it. So I’ll start off with that. But what I will say is that the challenge for businesses that are online that want to succeed, you have to think about how you’re going to acquire that customer. That’s the number one challenge, right? And that can be in the form of email marketing, it could be digital marketing and there’s a ton of stuff out there.

Hrag Kalebjian: My advice in anything that I’ve done is always keep it simple. And have a very clean and simple focus. So what that means for me is I have three goals every year and that’s all I focus on every year. And if other stuff comes up, I put it on the back burner, I put it in my list. If it’s an emergency, obviously I focus on it, but if it’s not an emergency, it’s not something that I’m going to do. And that’s a challenge with small businesses, because we’re like dogs chasing gophers around, right? Something pops up and then we change and then you’re doing 30 things and you’re not going to do them well. Focusing on three things every year, again, it’s clean, it’s focused, and you really get a good start on what it is that you’re trying to accomplish for that year.

Hrag Kalebjian: Now, when you’re just starting off, there’s so much stuff out there, the biggest thing that you need to do is you need to get customers to come to your website. It’s like having a very expensive car sitting in your garage, but there’s like no gas.

Hrag Kalebjian: So hey, it’s great. You just spend all this money, you built this website, but nobody’s visiting your page. Once you get a customer on your page, the second problem is how do you get them to do stuff on your page? Because if your page, it can be the coolest looking page, it can be very simple, but if you want them to do certain things on your site like go to your main menu, click on this or start shopping for particular type of shirt. They’re not going to do that and you have to guide them.

Hrag Kalebjian: And the best way to do that, in my opinion, it’s quiz service that you’ve provided. I mean it’s phenomenal. It’s essentially your digital version of being there on the site and telling them, “Hey, if you need anything, I’m right here.” So that would be like the biggest second largest challenges, you’ve got the customer, you paid a lot of money through advertising on your site, now you got to get them to do something. Use this fricking quiz, it’s going to kick ass. So you’ve got to think about how… If you’re selling cell phone chargers, how the hell are you going to get a customer to figure out which cell phone charger to buy, use the quiz and use that mentality to guide the customer of where they should be going.

Josh Haynam: Yeah, I like that. I like that. And then in terms of like actually moving through to a sale, I love what you’re talking about with in making the brand more personal, more human, what are your thoughts on that? How can somebody do that in a way that feels authentic and is it just like contrived?

Hrag Kalebjian: Yeah. Well the biggest thing is you got to be true to what you are. And what that really comes down to is saying no to other things that might be popular and just saying no if that’s not who you are. That’s really hard to do. And I’ll give you an example. Like in my business, in the coffee industry, sometimes it can get pretty damn pretentious and obnoxious, right? And the industry right now is really focused on lighter roast coffees that are very sweet and floral almost that tastes like tea, but that’s not who I am. That’s not what my dad’s roasting style is, it’s not who we have been. It doesn’t say that we don’t have those options, but in terms of my brand and what I focus on and my marketing keywords and all that stuff, that’s not who I am. So I don’t do those things. I’m staying true to what I am.

Hrag Kalebjian: When you stay true who you are, it’s a lot easier because you don’t have to fake it. So if you’re a small business, do what has gotten you success, it may be difficult because you’re seeing other businesses succeed with doing different things, but if you fake it, customers are going to sniff that out in five seconds.

Hrag Kalebjian: And the second thing I would say is don’t sell the product, sell your brand, sell who you’re about. Coffee is a frickin commodity, there’s a gajillion coffee roasters out there, everybody’s doing the same shit, everybody buys from the same car, everybody talks about helping the farmers or where the coffee comes from and how you brew in and all that shit, it’s all the same.

Hrag Kalebjian: Well what’s different for me is I’m a third generation coffee roaster. We’ve been doing it for 50 years, my father and his roasting style, that’s different, that’s powerful, that has nothing to do with coffee. Even if you’re selling, I don’t know, underwear, right? Don’t talk about the product. Maybe this is like your family were designing men’s garments in Cuba and you guys came over here in the 1960s, you talk about that family, you talk about that tradition and all of a sudden people love your underwear because it doesn’t matter what you’re selling. You could be selling them dog poop, but they know that whatever it is you’re doing is because you love it and you got passion and it’s whatever. And now it’s not the product anymore, it’s the brand.

Josh Haynam: Yeah, I mean, that totally changes the tone, and you’re totally right. No matter what you’re doing there’s other options, it’s always the case, so what are the things that make you different? Awesome.

Josh Haynam: Well, I appreciate your time today, Hrag. If anybody’s interested in wants to buy some awesome beans go to henryshouseofcoffee.com, and also check out their quiz, it’s just perfectly implemented.

Josh Haynam: So yeah. Thanks again for your time.

Hrag Kalebjian: Right on, Josh. Thank you. Be safe out there. And when everything is back to normal, I’d love for you to come by the shop and I’ll give you a tour.

Josh Haynam: Oh, that’d be amazing. All right. Thank you so much.

Hrag Kalebjian: Right on, have a good one.

Josh Haynam: All right.

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Josh Haynam

Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. Outside of Interact Josh is an outdoor enthusiast, is very into health/fitness, and enjoys spending time with his community in San Francisco.

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