Though I’m loathe to using Starbucks examples (after all, my customer service keynote is entitled, "Beyond Starbucks, Southwest and Nordstroms: Creating and Delivering Remarkable Customer Experiences for the Rest of Us), I do have to share one this week–though it’s not really about Starbucks.
The other evening I was having dinner with a friend who works for one of the larger Fortune 500 companies. Since he’s in sales, he wanted to pick up some gift cards from Starbucks to hand out to people on his team. Good thinking. So he went to his local Starbucks on a Sunday morning, waited in line for 15 minutes and then asked the person working the cash register, "Can I have 30 ten dollar gift cards?" (i.e. "I’m ready to make a $300.00 purchase,"–which if I’m not mistaken is a little larger than the typical cafe mocha purchase).
The Starbucks’ representative at this location, looking at the long line, said, "Sir, we’re really busy right now. If you go online and order them, they’ll get them to you by tomorrow." Now, if you had gotten in your car, driven to Starbucks, waited in line for 15 minutes and were then told to go online, how would you feel? Exactly. Which is why my friend turned around, left with his $300 . . . and then promptly spent those $300 at Best Buy, buying 30 ten dollar gift certificates there. Starbucks loss was Best Buys gain–all because one front line person (who at that moment represented all of Starbucks to that customer) didn’t (and probably doesn’t) get it.
Later that week, my friend was asked by someone else at his company, to get twenty Starbucks, not Best Buy, gift cards. So this time, my friend goes to a different Starbucks (after all, he’s not about to go back to the previous store–which not only lost a $300 purchase, but also all future purchases). This time, however, when my friend asks, "Can I have 20 ten dollar gift cards?" he receives a very difference response. This time, the woman working the register says, "Of course, but that’s going to require a few moments to complete, and we do have a long line. So, would you mind waiting for a few minutes while I complete this transaction, if I give you a free cafe mocha?"
Bingo. This lady gets it! Giving a free cup of coffee to someone who was about to purchase $200 worth of gift cards, while at the same time keeping all of the other customers happy, was brilliant. Same scenario played out in two different Starbucks. And the two different responses lead to two different results. In the case of the first Starbucks, my friend won’t go there any longer. And in the case of the second, he’s now a fan–and has remarked to, "at least 30 people," what happened to him, which, by definition, makes this experience remarkable.
Starbucks may do a lot of things right. But at the end of the day, it’s the front line person who determines how a customer feels about any company. My friend will probably never meet Jim Donald (the CEO of Starbucks). He’ll probably never buy Starbucks stock or read their strategic plan. Instead, he’ll only know Starbucks through the one person who pours his cafe mocha. To him, that is Starbucks.
So as you think about your company or organization or association, how are your front line people representing you? Have you trained them and instilled in them a culture of remarkability? And have you empowered them to deliver it? Remember, every encounter your client or customer has with anyone from your company matters to your image. So manage it wisely!