Forging an unforgettable connection: The Starbucks experience

Forging an unforgettable connection: The Starbucks experience

Before I had my first taste of Starbucks, I wondered why anyone would bear to spend such an exorbitant sum of money on a simple cup of coffee. What could possess someone to visit Starbucks 16 times a month (that’s once every two days) for coffee, each time paying a premium? Either the coffee is absolutely magical (it’s not), or there’s something else that creates an insatiable attraction for customers. What is this “something else” that keeps the cult of Starbucks streaming in regularly for their hit of caffeine every other day?

According to Joseph Michelli, that something else is “The Starbucks Experience”. He claimed that the magic behind the company’s success lay in its ability to “create personalized customer experiences, secure customer loyalty, stimulate business growth, generate profits, and energize employees—all at the same time.” In other words, being able to connect with the customer on a personal level plays a critical role in the company’s incredible success.

Creating a positive experience
Starbucks employees are drilled in the ways of customer service from the get-go; learning how to recognize and respond to a customer’s needs and wants. Consider the “Latte Method” that they are trained to use in unpleasant situations:

“We Listen to the customer, Acknowledge their complaint, Take action by solving the problem, Thank them, and then Explain why the problem occurred”

This method allows employees to respond well to difficult customer situations—something that most customer service representatives find hard to deal with. In this manner, Starbucks employees are able to create a positive experience for the customer, every time.

Going deeper with the customer
Beyond handling the negative, Starbucks employees also make an effort to connect with the customer, inculcating a personalized experience and securing customer loyalty. For example, Starbucks employees not only know their loyal customers by name, but also their regular orders. Greeting Tom with a question like, “So, the usual?” and a cheeky smile does wonders for customer loyalty.

That’s just the start—Starbucks employees also endeavor to ask customers about their lives. So Tom not only orders an Iced Grande Hazelnut Latte at 10 a.m. every morning, but he also has a 7-year old daughter who just started school recently and absolutely hates it.

Put these together, and you have an employee who seems genuinely interested in the lives of their customers; and who treats the customer not as a walking source of revenue, but as a human being with a life beyond the walls of Starbucks. In essence, they are forging a close connection and personal relationship with the customer. A relationship like that is not easily forgotten, and I bet Tom would return to Starbucks day in and day out not just for the wonderful coffee, but also because of the sense of intimacy and familiarity.

Personalize the experience
The story goes that a man was having a crazy and exhausting summer. One particular day, prepping himself for a long day of work, he decided to upsize his Starbucks coffee to a Grande. When he received his coffee, there was a note on his cup:

And so an exchange began between the barista and the man via cup messages. Back and forth they went, and the man unwittingly became a die-hard fan of Starbucks (check out their conversation here). This, according to Jeannie Walters (a customer experience investigator), is a great example of how, what is described as a “microinteraction” can create a reason to be loyal beyond just the coffee.
In a nutshell, the best customer service, as exemplified by Starbucks, is that which creates a personal connection with the customer.

Have you ever experienced such amazing customer service? We’d love to hear some of them!

This post was originally published by Zopim. Since joining Zendesk, Zopim has been welcomed into our product family as Zendesk Chat, along with a number of treasured belongings.