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Skinny customer service at Starbucks

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14th Aug 2008
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It's said that America and the UK are divided by a common language. We're certainly not divided by a common approach to customer service!

I was in Las Vegas last week - work, not pleasure! - and inevitably ended up in a Starbucks. The service was quick, efficient - slightly irritating in the sheer number of options on offer for one simple cup of coffee, but this is a country with 400 varieties of milk but only two political parties... But I got my frothy skinny frappe latte whatever-it-was with speed and with a smile. Someone took my order, someone else - part of a team of three it seemed - made my order up and someone else took my money at the till.

This week I went into a Starbucks in Central London. It was first thing in the morning. There was a long queue of early morning commuters who hadn't had their caffeine fix yet. And there was one, sullen girl behind the counter. She was having to do everything so it perhaps wasn't surprising that she was sullen, but that wasn't putting any of the customers in any better a mood.

She dealt with one customer at a time, shuffling about behind the counter. When someone asked if there was no-one else on duty, she didn't even look up, just snarled: "What do you think?". Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle - at one point I think she came close to breaking into indifference, but it was a false alarm.

I don't know what happened next as I gave up and went to Cafe Nero instead. But given that Starbucks has such a big push on the customer experience these days, I'd have to say to anyone from the coffee house who's reading this, my experience - and those of my fellow queue veterans - simply sucked. Maybe there was supposed to be an entire team on duty and they were all struck down with a lurgy at the same time, but I somehow doubt it,

One of the tricks of managing customer experience is anticipating customer demand. I know it's tricky, but I'd hazard a guess that you could assume that early morning in Central London is going to see a bit of a peak of interest in grabbing a coffee on the way to work and maybe staff up to meet that demand?

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