I rationally understand why you're calling me ma'am. I do. I'm older than you and it's a sign of respect when you don't know my name. Unfortunately, it's also jarring. It jolts me out of my pleasurable anticipation of coffee and into the realization that you perceive me as a "ma'am".
To me, being "ma'am'd" is a a cold-water-in-the-face reminder that I now can only look good "for my age" and not just look good. That society perceives me as less valuable and less relevant simply because I'm north of forty. 99.9% of the time, this doesn't cross my mind. It's just at that precise moment when someone calls me "ma'am".
I'm not alone here. One can find many blogs devoted to women reacting to the term ma'am. Some react with anger like Kristen Hansen Brakeman, and some like Ronna Benjamin, vow to work on changing their negative perception and reaction to that salutation.
"So what," I hear you thinking, "I can't control how you feel, I am calling you ma'am with the best of intentions." But you should care about how I, and other women in the same age bracket, feel about being called ma'am - because it will affect your tip and our continued patronage.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, Emotion First, all good customer experiences - both online or offline - originate from emotion. You don't want to create experiences where your customer starts "thinking." You want to keep them in the feeling zone and ideally feeling good.
Each time I am jolted back to the "thinking" zone, I am less likely to buy that baked good or linger over a second cup or mindlessly drop my change in the tip jar versus rationally putting it neatly back into my wallet.
My suggestion: just call every woman "Miss." The young women won't notice and the older women will continue having a good experience. Why not try it and test making the change in your standard operating procedures - I bet you'll quickly see the evidence in your tip jar.