Starbucks: Your Customer is NOT Your Guinea Pig

by Martha Brooke on August 18, 2016

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It was the typical noon-time rush at my local Starbucks—certainly not my favorite time to stop, but I was hungry and needed a snack. I ordered a drink and a bagel, and moved out of line to wait. My drink came out quickly, but five minutes later there was still no bagel. I caught the eye of an associate and asked where the bagel had gone. “Oh that’s the new guy, he’s still learning the ropes,” was the response I received. No apology, no attempt to rectify the situation…It got me thinking: Situations just like this occur every minute, all day long, because with customer service comes high turnover—so there’s always the new guy, but customers shouldn’t be their guinea pig.

The lunch rush? Of course that’s not the right time to bring a new employee up to speed. They should be prepared for all situations before they’re assigned a shift. And to prepare associates for providing great customer service, you need to coach them using roleplay and plenty of immersive examples. Don’t just tell them how to interact with customers, have a process that shows them what great customer service entails.

When your employees do make mistakes, and they will, have a procedure in place that uses the situation as an opportunity to build value. If the Starbucks associate had said “Thanks for telling us—we’re a little out of process today and I apologize. Here’s a card you can use for any drink—and next time I hope you’ll find us more in step.” With this, I would have felt appreciated, like a valued customer, not like the forgotten consequence of training gone awry.

All great customer service is built on great process, not great people. Sometimes in customer service, associates come to you with seemingly innate skills for connecting with customers and making things right. But those amazing employees are mostly luck and luck’s not a strategy. You can’t control your associates’ every words and you can’t control that one missing bagel, but you can have processes in place to deal with situations in a way that’s positive for employees and customers alike.

To create processes that drive great customer service, catalog and model each step of your everyday interactions. Next, make sure your customer experience team measures how often—and how well—your associates adhere to those models.

The truth is your new guy is an opportunity. He shows where your processes are failing. That’s exactly what you need to know to stay ahead of your customers’ expectations so they don’t go blogging about missing bagels. Starbucks, you’re good; you could be even better!