Customer (No) Service

I never thought I would be any good in the service industry, but after working for a time with Starbucks, I quickly discovered that I was actually pretty good at it. I loved the customer interaction, getting to know them and their drink, and bringing a little bit of coffee joy to people each day. It really isn’t difficult, and one of the things I loved about Starbucks was their focus on customer service. It defines who they are, and as a Barista trainer, I focused on making sure the guest/customer experience was consistently good, or better than good. People are paying $4-6 for a coffee drink AND the experience. Connecting with the guest – that is the Starbucks way.

And as a trainer, if I found someone wanting to work at Starbucks I’d look for their ability to connect with a customer. I’d focus on the importance of writing their name on their cup. Everyone loves to hear their own name, and what better way to connect with a guest, than using their name to call out their drink. It’s really very simple, and if you couldn’t do it (or wouldn’t do it) then maybe Starbucks was not the right choice for you. Sadly, it seems that this is fast becoming the exception, not the rule.

With the new technology of tapping in a name, or with mobile orders doing all the work, a drink is ordered and a drink is placed on the counter. I’ve noticed more and more that drinks aren’t called out any more, baristas don’t watch their customer as they take their first sip to make sure their drink was made right. And the customer focused LATTE mantra that every Starbucks employee should embrace is becoming a thing of the past. At least based on my recent experience.

I love Starbucks. I love the company, and I love the story that each customer brings to every Barista. And the fact that the positive customer experience is not a focal point anymore of many of the Starbucks that I go to, brings a sadness that – mostly – confuses me. Why do I care if a name is on my cup? Why do I care if the barista looks at me when they hand me my drink? It’s just coffee, right? And I don’t really have an answer. While not trying to be dramatic, it came to me yesterday – as I was having a bad experience at Starbucks – that it was like watching a family member die. I felt like there was nothing I could do to change the outcome. And that is how I felt as I took my warm drink in hand, and watched the once joyful life of that store slowly disappear.