A point of difference for good ol customer service and Starbucks

13 12 2007

(Disclaimer – I think Starbucks has done brilliant things with their marketing and advertising. How many other companies can you think of have changed our verbiage from “I’ll have a medium” to “I’ll have a tall” (or what they call small)?

A story  for you – (as you sip your tall, extra hot, no foam, sugar-free vanilla latte)

I have a Starbucks mug, given to me as a gift. It has a malfunction. The metal bottom has come loose due to faulty glue. This has happened twice. The first one was returned for the second one months ago.  I follow their directions, do not put it in the dishwasher and I dry it when it’s washed.

 Yesterday I walked into a Starbucks to exchange it and seeing the lineup was not moving, moved on to another one. 

At my second stop I was told that they could not accommodate me because I didn’t have a receipt and there was no SKU.  I explained it was a gift – and clearly from Starbucks (um, hello branding!). Nonetheless I was instructed to visit the Starbucks on the other side of the building.

Question One (to myself) Why can  they help me and you cannot? Aren’t you all affiliated? Possible answer – the barista didn’t want to deal with the hassle of my request. Fair enough. I moved on.

At my third Starbucks I was told, very nicely, that these particular mugs had been recalled as I could plainly read on a poster next to the terminal. However, they could not help me because (albeit confusing) they are owned the hotel that houses the shop.

Question Two (to myself) Why would Starbucks Two send me to Starbucks Three, in the same building, but owned by different components of the Starbucks name?

Starbucks Four – (directed to me by Starbucks three) could not help because as the barista explained he had been working at this Starbucks for 7 years and any return that needs to be made, regardless of the recall, must be handled through the Regional Office.

Question Three (directed to the experienced barista) Where is the regional office? Response – call head office in Seattle for directions, or look it up online.

Starbucks Five –  FINALLY someone who helps out! I am told no problem, he takes my old mug, shows me a traveler tumbler that stays warm for 3.5 hours (he timed it) and led me back to the till. Great! Because I was so thankful, I reached into my purse and gave him a Ripple Card (www.ripplecards.com) . He scoffed to his co-workers as I was leaving. And here I thought paying it forward was much more generous than cash.

The lesson – it was not Starbucks intention to have these baristas cast me off, even though I spent hundreds of dollars there each month. I believe the lesson is that big or small, the efforts of the individuals interacting with the consumer are what will create loyalty, spread some positive whispers and generate repeat business.

For ideas on how to inspire your staff and thus build your clientele, drop me a line. Personalizing every experience for the better is what I help my clients achieve every day.




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