Building Loyalty Through Customer Experience: A Starbucks Story
When was the last time you had a great customer service experience? When you were so amazed by their attention to detail, empathy, prompt response and perhaps even remembering your last purchase? Unless you’re a wealthy or important customer, chances are slim that you’ve encountered customer service that made you want to shout their name from the rooftops.
Well, I just had an unbelievably great customer service experience!
And it was from a brand that many know well enough. It was after lunch one afternoon, and we were slogging through a mid-week brainstorming session on brand strategy for a client. Figuring we needed a (huge) caffeine boost and a change of environment, we went to the nearest Starbucks for some double shots.
When we inquired about WiFi connection at the outlet, we were sheepishly told that it was not available that day. Apparently the server was down. So while we were bemoaning our fate (the coffee hadn’t arrived yet), the kind barista offered to see if we could ‘borrow’ a neighbour’s WiFi.
No such luck.
So we settled down to discuss our work, when the same barista came towards us. “Miss, I’m sorry we couldn’t help you with the WiFi issue. My manager says here are some vouchers for you to make up for it.”
Lo and behold, it was a couple of vouchers for free drinks, with no time or menu limit whatsoever. You know how some businesses give you a 10% coupon or a free dessert, but it is usually riddled with so many conditions you don’t end up using it after all. Well, THIS is how you do an apology via voucher. Give it to the customer, honest and up front. No hidden terms, no special clauses.
Everyone loves a freebie. So imagine our squeals of delight when we got the vouchers. Compared to surprise and delight of getting the voucher, the WiFi issue didn’t seem like an issue at all. All staff were helpful and courteous all the time, we really had no complaints other than the temporary absence of the WiFi.
We used the vouchers on the very same day, ordering 2 more drinks for the others too. So, really, Starbucks didn’t lose anything but gained some loyal customers who were bowled over by their thoughtfulness and fantastic service. So bowled over, in fact, that we forgot to take a picture! And if this kind of story gets viral on social media, it further reinforces the great Starbucks customer experience to tons of people.
The point here is not about dolling out free goodies each time you make a mistake. That is easy enough to do. The point here is that great customer service is so ingrained in the Starbucks culture that employees live the culture in all that they do. The Starbucks brand has 3 elements – coffee, people and stores. And each one has to be, in their words, a wonderful experience for customers. In his book Pour Your Heart Into it, Howard Shultz writes:
You get more than coffee when you visit Starbucks. You get great people, first-rate music, a comfortable and upbeat meeting place, and sound advice on brewing excellent coffee at home. At home you’re part of a family. At work you’re part of a company. And somewhere in between is a place where you can sit back and be yourself. That’s what a Starbucks store is to many of its customers – a kind of “third place” where they can escape, reflect, read, chat or listen.
The legend of this “third place” isn’t just all talk. Starbucks has managed to translate their brand into a daily customer experience. And that’s what keep customers coming back.
What about you? Does your company’s customer service reinforce and build customer loyalty? Is there a gap between the brand you promote and the brand you deliver?
And oh, in case anyone’s thinking of trying their luck at a Starbucks outlet, the one we went to got the WiFi all fixed and ready. Next time 🙂
Julia Koh is the Executive Director for Brand 360 Degree Sdn Bhd and she has just doubled her caffeine quotient to fit Starbucks meetings into her schedule.