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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why I LOVE Starbucks

Rick DeMarco, Managing Director, West Coast Operations at Inward Strategic Consulting shares an example of the role hourly workers play in delivering great customer experience that builds brand loyalty.
I cannot tell you that I am an expert on coffee.  Nor can I tell you how the beans used by Starbucks compare to those used by competitive coffee houses or brands.  But, I can tell you that I will always buy my lattes from Starbucks.  I LOVE the brand!  And it isn’t necessarily the coffee I love.  It’s the experience I get consistently at every single Starbucks I visit.  So what makes Starbucks so special?

I want to share a recent experience I had at a Starbucks location in Morgan Hill, California.  But first, let me share a few pieces of research that are critical for any organization that wants to deliver exceptional customer experiences.   First, there is empirical evidence from significant amounts of research that ties exceptional customer experiences directly to having an engaged and inspired workforce.  When employees believe in the vision and brand promise and are trained to deliver on that promise at every touch point, amazing things happen.  They fully understand that the brand gains or loses equity every time a customer interacts with it and they also fully understand how their role impacts that customer experience.

Secondly, significant research has been done on the drivers of customer loyalty and one of the key findings is that when an organization delivers a poor customer experience, they actually have an opportunity to improve loyalty, based on how they deal with that failure.  Case in point.  If I buy a new car and nothing goes wrong, I never have the opportunity to test the quality of the service and after sales support of that dealership.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want the car to fail.  But again, key findings from research prove that if the car does have a problem and the dealership handles it quickly and efficiently, my loyalty will actually be higher than if I had never had a problem.

Now with those two pieces of research as background, let me share my experience.  As customer focused as a company may be, employees are human beings and mistakes are made.  But a potential disappointment in a brand that I hold in high regard turned into a validation of my love of that brand last week when I went into a Starbucks in Morgan Hill, California and ordered 3 lattes. The person behind the counter was engaging and friendly as I have come to expect anytime I walk into a Starbucks. After paying for my purchase, I moved to the counter to wait for my drinks.  The first drink came up quickly.  A few moments later, the second one was placed on the counter.  Then I started hearing other names being called and other drinks being delivered.  I had given the two drinks to my son who was with me, and was still standing by the counter, just about to ask what was going on with my third drink.  However, before I even got the chance to ask, the barista, as busy as he was preparing drinks, noticed that I was still standing there and asked me if there was something else I needed.  I told him that I had a third drink ordered.  He quickly apologized.  Then he immediately disregarded the list of drinks that were on order and made mine, which he delivered promptly.  Upon presenting my drink to me, he again apologized and handed me a coupon and said the next drink is on us.  We are very sorry for the inconvenience.

Incredible!   As much as I love Starbucks, this experience presented an opportunity for me to be disappointed as a customer and for me to wonder if Starbucks was slipping.  But this barista, not the person taking orders, did everything right to turn a bad experience into a good one.

1.   He noticed that I was still standing around and proactively asked me if there was anything else I needed.  I never had to say anything.
2.   He apologized sincerely
3.   He immediately made it right.  He stopped what he was doing and made the drink that I was waiting for.
4.   He apologized again and to demonstrate his desire to make a customer happy, gave me a coupon for a free coffee.

Why do I love Starbucks?  They get it.  By training and developing a highly inspired and engaged workforce, they create exceptional customer experiences every single time I visit one of their stores, whether it’s in Morgan Hill or Chicago or Boston or Arkansas. 

Starbucks, you have my loyalty forever!

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