Gini Dietrich

A Fantastic Starbucks Customer Experience Story

By: Gini Dietrich | October 30, 2012 | 

I have a great story to tell you.

It’s one of fantastic customer service from a brand we all know and love: Starbucks.

Most of you know I had a craaaaazy summer. I was on the road for 25 weeks straight. To say I was exhausted is putting it mildly.

When I’m home, Mr. D comes into my office and announces, “I’m going to go hunt for coffee,” as if we’re living in the wilderness and he’s hunting for the family’s daily meal.

I always get a tall, nonfat latte. But one particular morning in June, after a few weeks of crazy travel, I asked him to upsize me to a grande.

When he returned, there was a note on my cup:

The fact that the barista at Starbucks knew I was in for a long day because I ordered a larger drink was pretty incredible. I took a picture of it and uploaded to Facebook, but thought that was the end of that.

About a month later, Mr. D came home with another personalized cup:

He explained they didn’t think I was real – that he was making me up – because they’d never seen me.

So, of course, I checked “maybe,” wrote “depends on your definition of real,” and sent the cup back the next day.

In order to determine whether or not our definition of real was the same, he sent me another cup:

And so began our four month relationship, communicating only through cups that Mr. D delivered back and forth a couple of times a week.

It became a great source of entertainment on Facebook, while my friends all voted on how I should answer each question.

Then, after three U.S. trips and one trip to Canada, I made my return – via the cups and Mr. D – to Starbucks.

He continued to keep me on my toes, even as I answered his questions and sent back some of my own, with a new “feature” of our cup relationship.

And then sadness. About a month ago, I learned his last day at Starbucks was coming soon.

I had Mr. D find out when his last day was (this past Sunday) and I went in to meet him.

And now, without any further ado, I’d like to introduce Dan the Starbucks barista who totally rocks, gave me a ton of great fodder for Facebook updates for months, and made me feel like he truly cared about both Mr. D and me as regular customers.

He moved to Chicago to go to The French Pastry School and now has a full-time job as a pastry chef at Sixteen at the Trump Hotel. And you can bet on your life that we will be visiting him there, which never would have happened without the personalized cups.

He took regular Starbucks customers and had such an effect on us, we’ll become dessert patrons at a fancy schmancy restaurant.

The Experts Say

We’ve been talking a lot here about treating customers like people, no matter what your job, and while it’s interesting conversation, I’m not a customer experience expert.

So I asked Jeannie Walters and Adam Toporek to give us their take on why these little things matter so much in today’s 24/7, real-time, digital world.

Jeannie said:

This is a perfect example of how a small thing, a microinteraction, can have a much bigger affect. Customers are people. As people, we each like to be treated as an individual. This small act of interaction recognized you as a unique person, plus it created a relationship when there was no requirement to go beyond the transaction. By interacting in this incredibly human, not to mention charming, way, he gave you a reason to be loyal beyond the coffee. It’s a wonderful reward for loyalty, too. We all want to be recognized.

And, as a side note, this is the topic of Jeannie’s TedX talk on November 9, if you want to learn more.

And Adam said:

We live in a low touch economy. We bounce from transaction to transaction sometimes without any human contact at all. Most of the personalization we do experience falls under the rubric of mass customization — it’s faux-personalization such as reading the name off a credit card or off a Starbucks cup. These gestures are important because they help us feel recognized, but they are not enough to make us feel truly valued.

The reality is everyone wants to feel appreciated. What is so cool about your barista is that he went beyond his job to make you feel special, to take extra time to show that he valued you enough as a customer and person to notice and to care.

So there you have it. A very personal, fantastic story of customer experience and a series of microinteractions that worked phenomenally well.

What experiences have you had or seen that lend to really great customer experience?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Barista Dan is a sure challenger for James Hoffmann’s World Champion Barista Crown.  
    Dan exemplifies everything James  shared with us at last weeks Be World Class conference in Leeds 
    Wonderful story Gini and another great example of finding ordinary people delivering world class performance right on our doorstep.

    • @richardbosworth I think I should submit him for an award at the Be World Class conference!

  • AmeenaFalchetto1

    Oh wow this is SUCH an awesome story! LOVE LOVE LOVE!

    • @AmeenaFalchetto1 Isn’t it?? It got better every time I got a new cup. He’s pretty freaking amazing!

  • PittBecca

    This is an awesome story and I love the overall message!  If all baristas were like this I think there would be a lot more “good” long days.  
    I think the best thing I’ve encountered just has to do with all you said… have that personal touch.  Any situation where I feel like the person I am purchasing something from takes interest, or even takes the time to ask “So how is your day going?” makes me happy!  
    I need to be more like this too!

    • @PittBecca I think we all need to be more like this. It’s not so hard to have fun with the people who buy from us, but sometimes we get busy and we forget.

  • belllindsay

    I’ve been following your Starbucks Cups saga – and this is a fantastic ending to an incredible story. A pastry chef!!?? Crazy! I am so glad you two finally met!! 🙂

    • @belllindsay I cannot wait to go have some yummy dessert made by my new friend!

  • bobledrew

    What’s interesting to me is this question. So Dan the barista has “it” — you can tell from his attitude as demonstrated in his cheeky messages on your cups, even in his smile. And that’s great. Sbux obviously benefited from his work there. And I’ve no doubt his next employer will, and the one after that. But having someone like Dan is partially good luck, and partially good hiring. So how do you distill “it” and put a few drops in ALL of your employees’ coffee?

    • @bobledrew I think you’re right – some people have it and some do not. It’s hard to instill that in all of your employees. I was in LA a few months ago, going through security at LAX, and the guy at TSA was the nicest person in the entire world. He was talking to people, he was cracking jokes, he was looking people in the eye when he was checking their tickets and ID, and he used people’s first names. It was amazing to see the mood of people shift from “I hate security and this process sucks” to “This isn’t so bad.” In fact, the guy in front of me was about to miss his flight and I’d venture to guess 20 or 30 people let him go right to the front because they were so relaxed from watching this guy do his thing. It makes a HUGE difference.

      • @ginidietrich @bobledrew yes it’s hard to instill. But I’ll tell you, when I worked at Starbucks in 96, they certainly did try. And I’ve had more positive customer experiences in Starbucks than almost any retail store. And I’m an Apple lover. Of course you can’t go by me because I have been indoctrinated by the Starbucks cult from the inside…

        • @Tinu  I’m with you on Apple. I LOVE going in to their stores. It’s such a great experience.

  • John_Trader1

    Incredible how the massive explosion of our digital world has made the little, teency, tiny personal customer service interactions all that much more special. It’s like we don’t expect them anymore and when they happen, we are floored that someone took the time to remember we are humans.
    Great story and should be a case study in the college textbooks.

    • @John_Trader1 Right? We’re so accustomed to faceless interactions that when something cool like this happens, we are floored. The best part about it, though, is I received these cups without ever stepping foot into Starbucks. I didn’t actually meet him until a few days ago. So it says a lot about how much they enjoyed having Mr. D visit each morning.

      • @ginidietrich  @John_Trader1 Let’s not limit ourselves to textbooks here, people! You write it, I’ll publish it. deal?

        • @RebeccaTodd  @John_Trader1 DEAL!

        • John_Trader1

          @ginidietrich  @RebeccaTodd I am pre-ordering the book on Amazon as we speak.

        • @John_Trader1  @ginidietrich I am still awaiting the first draft of Gini’s fiction piece to edit…

        • @RebeccaTodd  @John_Trader1 Wait til Thursday!

  • Amazing how something so small can make such a big difference. Another reason for smart businesses to let the employees lead the culture (if that lead is a right fit). Here’s to Dan – it’s clearly something to do with the first name…

    • @Danny Brown Clearly it’s the first name. Why don’t you go back on your roof and fix those pipes?

      • @ginidietrich That’s my job today. Fun. If I blow over your way, please have a coffee ready.

        • @Danny Brown I’ll have Dan make you a coffee!

  • I have a whole happy tirade about working at Starbucks that I’ll rant about elsewhere. But what a great story. Right now, I’d have to say that I’m having a romance with the Uber car service in DC. It’s not always perfect, but when it is, it’s magical, and I feel like a princess. When it’s not, I know the people in customer service will fix it. Literally every time I am merely satisfied or worse, they respond to my review with a real response from one of the same 2 people.
    You’d think I was their only client.

    • @Tinu We love Uber, too! And there is a new service launching here next week that may be even better (if only because I know one of the owners).

  • I absolutely love this story…I’m a little sad it has come to an end though, but what a great ending! I remember getting a smiley face on my SB cup and that’s the one I took a pic of. Just that made my day. It’s the little things. And I agree with @John_Trader1  this should be a case study in college textbooks. I’m tempted to send it to an old professor of mine who loves talking about Starbucks!

    • @yvettepistorio  You should! I submitted it to the Starbucks “employee hero” website, too. I hope he gets all sorts of kudos for having fun with his customers.

  • @ginidietrich I have enjoyed watching the Starbucks coffee cup story unfold and it’s fun to see your barista’s face finally. I had a marvelous customer service experience with a wonderful Verizon lady, when I had just about given up on finding a rea human being to speak to. She patiently walked me through every aspect of my issue and we then fell into a long conversation about our lives and kids and work. We still email on occasion and I always know where to go if I need to have a Verizon question answered. No small thing in today’s smartphone-dependent world.

    • @allenmireles What?!? That’s unheard of from a phone company. Wow.

  • Thank you for finally sharing Dan with us! What a cutie. I wish him every success in the future, but I know he doesn’t need just wishes- his kind spirit and thoughtfulness will carry him far in life. Also, I voted “Harry” and “Magic Mike” even though I think I got outvoted.

    • @RebeccaTodd I think you did get outvoted. There was another one (I can’t remember which) that majority did not win. It’s fun being the dictator of answers on your Starbucks cups!

      • @ginidietrich Just as an FYI, Magic Mike is out on DVD. You’re welcome.

        • @RebeccaTodd I’ll have to rent it one night Mr. D is playing poker.

  • I loved those personalized cup updates! I actually showed it to my dad (a total Starbucks fan). And he then thought his cups were boring – he actually went and told the story to the Starbucks near his office! 
    My favorite customer service story – when in college my friends and I usually went to this local burger joint. It was run by a couple and they had left their day jobs to make this happen. Now my birthday falls during Indian holidays so I was normally home for it. But one particular birthday I had to stay back for something and most of my friends were out of town. I decided to give myself a little alone time and went to the joint a day before the day. The joint was deserted. I stepped in to find the biggest surprise – They knew it was my birthday (customer survey we filled in) and they knew I must have been lonely, they closed the joint for everyone else for three hours, had a little birthday party – the couple and I and they gave me the book I had been wanting to read (must have overheard the conversations we have!). And its been five years, I get a birthday wish call from them every year!

    • @Hajra  OMG! That is insane! What a crazy – and fun – story!

  • I love this story! I’m sad I won’t get to see the saga of the cups anymore on Facebook, but so glad you finally got to meet Dan and that he’s pursuing his dream. So cool!
    One of my best customer experience stories is from a coffee shop too. When I used to work downtown, I would frequent Dunn Brothers Coffee. And, I would always rave about them on Twitter. The owner and I got to know each other online, but we never met. One day, I tweeted something to the effect of “man, I wish Dunn Bros delivered” because I wasn’t able to get out of the office that day. The next day, they tweeted me to see if I was in my office. And low and behold, the owner showed up with my OWN growler of cold pressed coffee and everything I needed to make my favorite beverage from there.
    That only increased my loyalty to them. And of course, I blogged about it. I would still go there if I worked downtown! Their coffee is terrific, but the service put them over the top!

    • @lauraclick It makes me sad you no longer work downtown because it sounds like you’re missing out on something really big!

      • @ginidietrich What do you think I’m missing out on? Coffee? Goodness no. There are tons more coffee shops in my neighborhood, just not within walking distance. But, that changes in a week or so when one opens ONE BLOCK from my house. HOORAY!
        I loved working downtown, but my job now is WAAAAAY better. 😉

  • LouHoffman

    It comes to the people.
    That’s at the core of the experience.
    The founder of the Four Seasons was on Charlie Rose a few weeks ago. It was a fabulous interview as he delved into how the Four Seasons cultivates employees who care.

  • LouHoffman

    Great story.
    It comes down to the people.
    That’s at the core of the experience.
    The founder of the Four Seasons was on Charlie Rose a few weeks ago. It was a fabulous interview as he delved into how the Four Seasons cultivates employees who care.

    • @LouHoffman Oh! I’m going to find it. That sounds like something I’d enjoy seeing.

  • That’s a pretty terrific story Gini.  Have you shared it with anyone at Starbucks?  I think you should.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they did something nice for him even having already left.
    It also has me thinking about fun things I can do with my customers.  Really fun post today… loved it!
    –Tony Gnau

    • @T60Productions I posted it in their employee heroes site so we’ll see if they pay attention.

  • magriebler

    The woman who owns my local dry cleaner doesn’t speak much English and I speak even less Chinese. But her face lights up when I walk in the door and she always RUNS to the counter to greet me. She never has to ask my name; she knows everyone in my family; and her alterations are affordable and exquisite. She makes a mundane errand memorable simply by making ME feel memorable.
    Putting people first is an attitude that transcends all kinds of barriers. Dan didn’t need to meet you to forge a relation. My dry cleaner doesn’t need to know more than a handful of English phrases to make me feel like her best customer. Like @John_Trader1 said, they remember we’re human beings first. And we don’t forget.

    • @magriebler  @John_Trader1 That’s a great story! The owner of the local Vietnamese restaurant has become a friend as well. We don’t let the language barrier stop us from connecting.  Every time I walk in, he calls out to welcome me loudly, so the whole restaurant hears- “Hello Brenda!”. I told you we weren’t concerned about the language barrier…

      • @RebeccaTodd  @magriebler  @John_Trader1 I love it. During my college days, a couple of my friends and I used to go to a little Chinese restaurant. We became such regular guests that the owners could guess our orders even before we placed them.

        • @Erin F.  @RebeccaTodd  @magriebler  @John_Trader1 #thelovelylisa (my wife) has a serious Starbucks habit. As soon as they see her walk in the door, the barista is already pulling her drink together (grande vanilla latte, non-fat, two pumps with whip).  
          When I go through the drive-through, there’s always a slice of pound cake waiting for the Wonderpup – because he’s usually in the backseat.

      • magriebler

        @RebeccaTodd   “Brenda” must be “Rebecca” in Vietnamese. Or Canadian.

      • @RebeccaTodd  Hello Brenda?!? LMAO!! I’m calling you that from now on.

    • @magriebler  I think that might be a cultural thing because our dry cleaning lady gets the biggest grin on her face when she sees Mr. D coming and she fawns all over me. Hmmmmm….

      • magriebler

        @ginidietrich As opposed to being dazzled by our sparkling personalities? I’ll go with my version, thank you very much.

  • Great story, and glad you wrote about it. I wish more people would praise good employees and customer service. I’m also tempted to call one of those toll-free “How’s my driving” numbers on the back of a truck just to say, “Hey, your driver is following all of the laws and driving very safely”. I bet they never get those calls.

    • magriebler

      @KenMueller I love that. It reminds me of some sage advice I got about parenting and supervising: catch people doing something right. Chances are they’ll do it again.

    • @KenMueller Not true, I actually called one of those numbers and reported my experience. I observed a truck driver allowing merging traffic in for a couple miles and he honked his horn when my kids gave him the universal “sign.” The attendant on the call was obviously flabbergasted… She was like “ummm ok, is that all?” yeah lady, it was, now give my man a good review!

      • @TonyBennett  Haha! That’s awesome. My kids used to do that, as did I. but I guess that’s proof they aren’t used to getting those kind of calls. Most of the calls they get are probably laced with profanity.

    • @KenMueller OMG! DO IT!!

      • @ginidietrich Great. This gives me an idea. Just what I need. more ideas….

        • @KenMueller YAY!!

        • @KenMueller  @ginidietrich You can never have too many ideas. Okay, maybe you can. <hides notebook brimming with sticky notes and scraps of paper>

  • Making the customer feel special doesn’t take a lot of work. I wish more companies would do this.

    • @bradmarley That’s the funny thing about it…it’s so easy! It’s like some companies go out of the way NOT to be nice.

      • @KenMueller  @bradmarley omg ever try getting that Inkling Media on the phone? It is like ACD hell.

    • @bradmarley Right? It’s not that hard. Just treat people like human beings. Why is that so hard?

  • I am SO giving a Starbucks cup to my Mermaid-believing neighbor:)  I’ve always loved this story… I’m hoping he can continue making you feel special, and us live vicariously through you, in his new job.

    • @AmyMccTobin The next time I am down your way, I want to meet this neighbor of yours. I will ask him all sorts of questions and then we’ll have Facebook fodder for at least a month!

      • @ginidietrich Let’s start with mermaids, unicorns and aliens, and see where it leads…

  • @ginidietrich This is the true definition of customer service. And I agree with @KenMueller companies seem to strip people of their personalities to ensure that everything happens the way it’s “supposed to” happen based on an ideal customer experience. However, it’s the human interaction and personalities that keep us coming back! For me this redefines an ideal customer experience and more companies should strive to do this.
    Thanks again for sharing Gini!

    • @GeoffReiner  @ginidietrich This reminds me of a post that Gini and I, and quite a few others, contributed to over on adamtoporek ‘s blog about customer service. There were some great descriptions there of what customer service is all about. I go back to this particular post a lot.

      • @KenMueller  @GeoffReiner  @ginidietrich  Ken, your check is in the mail. 🙂

        • @Adam | Customer Experience  @KenMueller  @ginidietrich  lol that’s awesome!

        • @GeoffReiner  @Adam | Customer Experience  @ginidietrich Suh-weet! I can’t remember if it was in that post or another one, but someone mentioned that customer service is not about how many customers you handle in a certain amount of time (like call centers) but is about spending the time necessary with each customer. In a culture concerned with herding customers like cattle, Dan would have been chastised, or even fired, for “wasting” time on his cup art.

        • @KenMueller  @GeoffReiner  @Adam | Customer Experience  @ginidietrich Whereas I would have celebrated it. Little details matter.

        • @KenMueller  @Adam | Customer Experience  @ginidietrich  
          It’s so true! And this gets back to Gini’s Apple story about customer service representatives actually spending time with you to make sure they answer all your questions and deliver a service that is beyond all expectations.

          It’s a way to truly become a trusted advisor but many people either don’t see the value or are encouraged not to spend the time..

        • @Erin F.  @KenMueller  @GeoffReiner  @Adam | Customer Experience  @ginidietrich if he really cared Gini would of had a side of bacon with every cup on the house.

        • @GeoffReiner  @KenMueller  @Adam | Customer Experience Geoff, your check is in the mail!

      • @KenMueller  @ginidietrich  adamtoporek  
        Ken this is great! So much rich information from business leaders and entrepreneurs. Thanks again for sharing!

  • This is a great customer experience story Gini! Seeing the cups really brings the depth of the interaction to life. I’m curious, in fact, did Dan prep the cups ahead of time? Hard to imagine him writing them out with a counter 6 deep.
    The moral, of course, is that Dan took the time and interest in you that was far above and beyond the normal call of duty, even for a typically friendly Starbucks barista. But it is also true, that he is probably exceptional. To @bobledrew ‘s point below, sometimes you just hire a rockstar. In the end, we can’t create a company of Dans, as much as we want to try, but we can hold the Dans of the world up as examples of what we want our culture to be.

    • @Adam | Customer Experience  @bobledrew you do know that the manager at that starbucks told the employees anyone who get’s even a minor complaint is being sold to work in the mines of Siberia.

    • @Adam | Customer Experience  I think in the beginning he definitely wrote them out while he was waiting for the milk to warm up, but when we were sending one another questions, it was clear he was taking time to think about them (as I did). But I don’t know if he wrote them right then or ahead of time. I’ll have to ask Mr. D

  • patrickreyes

    As someone so eloquently put it at TEDx Detroit last week, “we are in an era of selling customer experiences instead of customer services.”

    • @patrickreyes great point (and quote)

      • @TonyBennett  @patrickreyes so I recall you are a Lion’s fan who I can tell have been selling you really amazing experiences this year! @ginidietrich is a convert.

        • @HowieG @patrickreyes yes, I too am peddling the Honolulu Blue & Silver goods as well. We basically lost on a technicality last Monday (turnovers) but fear not, we’ll still clinch a wild card birth and beat da bears in da playoffs @ginidietrich

        • @TonyBennett  @HowieG  @patrickreyes  What?!? A technicality? Is that what it’s called when you can’t score at all until the last seconds of the game?

    • @patrickreyes Was it you that put it so eloquently??

  • I so love this story, and a perfect example of how truly wonderful customer service is scalable. They don’t have to be the big stunts that get the headlines (i.e. Morton’s showing up with a steak for Peter Shankman in response to a tweet or the big birthday spread for a young guest at Best Western); just honest human interaction.

    • Olivia_Farnham

      @jasonkonopinski so true — big stunts aren’t needed.

    • @jasonkonopinski this story is better. I really don’t find the Shankman story impressive. he eats at Mortons all the time. The amount they charge what they did is expected. Anything less would be offensive in my book.

      • @HowieG Absolutely – and I consider Peter a friend. The Morton’s story needs to be taken in context that the response was largely *because* it was Peter Shankman sending out the tweet.  The real measure is how they respond to normal customer inquiries/complaints, etc.

    • @jasonkonopinski Mr. D said to him, “I don’t think how famous you are about to become when Gini blogs about this.” He didn’t do it because I have Twitter followers or a blog. He did it because he knew I was having a bad day and it grew from there.

      • @ginidietrich  @jasonkonopinski I think that means he’s observant, and he has a kind heart. Both excellent qualities.

        • @Erin F.  @ginidietrich  @jasonkonopinski still no side of bacon

        • @Erin F.  @ginidietrich I try very hard to surround myself with people who have those qualities in spades. I think I’ve done pretty well in that regard.

        • @HowieG  @Erin F.  @jasonkonopinski I AM A VEGETARIAN!!!

        • @ginidietrich  @HowieG  @Erin F. Well, nobody’s perfect.

        • @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich I try to do the same.

        • @ginidietrich  @HowieG  @Erin F.  @jasonkonopinski I got your back on this one Gini. @KenMueller loves Veggie bacon, by the way.

        • @Adam | Customer Experience  @ginidietrich  @HowieG  @Erin F.  @jasonkonopinski Veggie Bacon is a misnomer. It shouldn’t exist.

  • terence.stephens

    awesome story.  I’m already starting to think of ways to make my customer service more personal.

    • @terence.stephens Yeah! That’s what I like to hear! 
      What happened to your avatar?

      • terence.stephens

        @ginidietrich I don’t really know what happened to it.  I keep meaning to get some pics outdoors to use in my various profiles — its coming soon!

  • Wow!! Dan is my new hero, figuratively and literally speaking. I suppose I’d have frequent Starbuck’s more often to develop a relationship like yours, but still, I haven’t experienced anything like that. In fact, if I ever had that sort of personal service, I’d likely give him or her my official seal of awesomeness (I really have one). Thanks for sharing this story, Gini.

    • @TonyBennett The thing I love most about it is I probably only got one drink a week because of my travel schedule. I think Mr. D was in there more often, but he always sent a cup home with him when he knew I was home.

  • I love this and hope Dan becomes famous!! Now, about that dessert date….

    • @jeanniecw Oh we’re going. After your birthday.

  • jennimacdonald

    Gini I had a similar experience,  yet not as fun. I was living in Seattle and looking for a real, honest mechanic. Finally I asked my Facebook friends and found one. I called them and talked about my concerns, they even talked to my stepfather to resolve my car issues. The best part was when I received a thank you note in the mail, and not just a thank you card but a handwritten note with a personal message saying how they were so glad they could help me, and gave me a coupon for coming in next time.
    For that personalized note they received 3 online rating reviews from me, 5 stars of course. A blog post, and multiple updates on Facebook promoting their business. 3 years later it still sticks with me! Starbucks should send Dan a bonus.

    • @jennimacdonald There is almost nothing better than a handwritten thank you note!

      • @ginidietrich  @jennimacdonald Especially one that comes in the mail with a real stamp.  It’s amazing how that works.

  • ElissaFreeman

    Fabulous story!!  I am so going to the Trump for dessert next time I’m in Chicago!!

    • @ElissaFreeman my ex fiance (ex because we got married Sunday) wanted me to wear cuff links. Macy’s had two brands. Trump and Tosso Elba. I told the guy I will not wear Trump!
      Hey @ginidietrich is it too late to save this poor guy? I am going to call him now.

      • @HowieG  I think he’ll be OK. Trump doesn’t actually show up there and it’s a REALLY nice restaurant.

        • @ginidietrich not as nice as Applebee’s but hey nothing compares to that

    • @ElissaFreeman I hope I’m going with you!

  • All hail Barista Boy.
    This reminds me of Jon Buscall’s most recent podcast and the discussion about how the people in stores we shop at used to know who we are and ask about our lives.
    The ‘small town’ touch has significant real world implications.

  • mastrbruce

    Sounds like one bored barista.

  • debdobson62

    Dear Gini, just when I think I’ve read one of your best posts, I read this over lunch.  I think everyone who works in customer service (don’t we all in a way?) needs to read this.  Dan is a great model on paying attention to your customer (and you can insert “client” depending on your business) and developing a relationship with them.  I so love this and you bet am going to share with everyone and when I finally make my Chicago trip, well, we have to go to Sixteen.

    • @debdobson62 It’s one of the things I talk with my team about quite a bit. It’s OK to ask your clients about their personal lives. Get to know their interests. Find out about their kids. It’s part of the reason I have been so successful during my career – I treat our clients like friends.

      • @ginidietrich  @debdobson62 I wish I could eavesdrop on one of the conversations you have with your team. They seem like good conversations.
        I love learning details about people. I remember these sisters who would come to Nine West to buy Easy Spirit tennis shoes. They were retired, and they always gave each other a hard time about who got to buy the pink pair of shoes because, of course, they couldn’t wear the exact same pair. Any time they visited, we’d have a good chat about who’s turn it was to buy which pair of shoes. It was fun.

  • I heard he writes stuff on every cup. 8)
    I am proud that I have lived at least 8 miles from  starbucks since mid 2008 (now it is 18 miles) after living 9 years exactly half a block. My starbucks in redondo beach would see me coming and instantly make my coffee drink. It started out I got a ice mocha non fat latte extra shot and then after figuring I was spending $1872 a year there I cut back to an Iced Venti to reduce my spend by 33% lol
    They did give great service. And the secret at Starbuck’s isnt the coffee which really kind of sucks. It is the service and at least it is the same stuff every time.
    This is a great story. BUT IF HE REALLY CARED! He would of said non-fat milk is bad for you Gini. Taking out the milk fat means you are getting 100% sugar and it converts to an even higher level of fat once consumed than what whole milk would give you. Instead he just let you continue with your unhealthy milk habit not a care in the world as long as Mr D tipped you.

    • @HowieG I totally agree. There are at least six coffee shops on my street (one that has delicious lattes) and we always go to Starbucks because we’re not a number. It really does make a difference.

  • Best story I’ve read all day!

    • @Anthony_Rodriguez Pretty great, isn’t it?

    • @Anthony_Rodriguez I agree. I’m not a coffee drinker, but this makes me want to take it up.

  • BTW @ginidietrich you do know that the reason you can’t call me is that @Adam | Customer Experience still has me on hold with weird Kraftwerk music since before your Follow Friday for him.

    • @HowieG  @Adam | Customer Experience I knew Adam’s head was going to get too big.

    • @HowieG  @ginidietrich And now that I have the #FF on my resume, you really think I’m going to pick up the phone. Please. I will swap out the Kraftwerk for something better though — because I value your business. 🙂

  • Many years ago, when I was a lad of 17, I worked at the campus town McDonalds. It was pretty cool being around mostly college kids and I always worked on Friday and Saturday night.
    Not long after I started, I was assigned to keep the lobby clean during bar rush. It isn’t as easy at it sounds, because people eat quickly and they rarely throw away their garbage. I needed to not only pick-up after them, but wipe down the tables.
    One night, about 2 a.m. (we were open until 3 a.m.), Lefester Rhodes, the center for the Iowa State Men’s basketball team was eating in the back section. I took out the garbage can and gave him a nod, “You think you can make it?”
    He wadded up his garbage and drained it, much to the cheers of the crowd. Somebody gave him their garbage and he made that, too. Now, everyone wanted to play. In a few minutes I’d cleaned off every table and then quickly changed the liner. One more minute of quickly wiping the tables down and half the lobby was clean.
    This went on for several weeks and members of the basketball team started requesting that the “Garbage toss” guy come out. It was really fun and got the job done. I even got a raise when the manager of the store heard about how efficient I’d been.

    • @ExtremelyAvg That is an awesome story! Yet another example of how the little things truly add up. 🙂

    • @ExtremelyAvg That. Is. Awesome. What a totally fun story! I’m with Tara. Great story!

  • I love this story and will definitely tell my family in Chicago to visit Dan @Sixteen next next time they’re looking for a place to go for an evening out.

  • ifdyperez

    This was SUCH a cool story. I loved following it. 🙂

    • @ifdyperez I’m kind of bummed it’s over!

  • InfoSara

    Oh @ginidietrich I don’t know who I love more, you or Starbucks, but of course it’s Dan!!! I love this story and how you tell it, you are master of storytelling 🙂 Customer Services and Attention To Details certainly are the king and queen of services industry, I recently had excellent experience with a local cleaning services company who is the first EVER to clean my house spotless! Considering how many cleaning services I have used and quite often they either don’t clean the area you don’t see or do an average job cause you got voucher deal, hubby is never satisfied with any; but after this experience, we actually decide to commit and have them coming for regular cleaning!

    • @InfoSara I need that cleaning service! I complain about our cleaning lady every time she’s here (I know; first world problems).

  • rdopping

    How timely is this story? I used to get coffee every morning at my local Starbucks and my barista always greeted me by name. Not so big, right? Well, I went there today again after over a year and found her there. She had left Starbucks for mat leave, had a baby and returned. I walked in and she greeted me by name. It blew me away and I turned 5 shades of red because I couldn’t remember her name.
    There must be something about the hiring practice there. the people are genuine.

    • @rdopping That is awesome!! I went to the Starbucks near our old office on Monday. When I walked in, the barista said, “Oh sure. Walk in here and say hello like it hasn’t been months since you’ve been in.” I kind of love that.

  • chemam

    What a great story! Its always the little things that matter.

  • chemam

    What a great story! Its always the little things that make the difference – I hope Starbucks know they have a great service team!

    • @chemam I submitted the story to them so I hope they pay attention!

      • AlexisKing

        @ginidietrich  I am a Starbucks partner and just wanted to let you know that I came across your story on our Starbucks Partners Facebook page. So not only did they see your story but they shared it with all of us! I’m glad such a small thing has touched so many people.

        • @AlexisKing Oh yay! I’m so glad to hear it! He is one of your rock stars!

        • @AlexisKing  @ginidietrich What is really amazing is that Gini has been sharing this story with us as it unfolded…we all feel like we know her Barista, or at least we’ve all envied her for having him.  This post was just the culmination of one rockin customer service story.

  • liamgooding

    Such a beautiful story. And a customer experience story that I wish could be replicated by more places.
    Do you think anything in his training had driven him to do this? Or was he a diamond in the rough. An anomaly. A fluke. A CS genetic mutation.
    Finding a barrista who remembers name’s is a find. Finding one who create’s his own customer engagement and loyalty program is whole new level!
    Starbucks should have been throwing money at this guy to tour nationally and run seminars on customer engagement. They’re crazy to lose him!

    • @liamgooding I think it’s probably 75% him and 25% training. He kind of rocks. And your guest post for us rocked, too! I will stop by there later this week.

    • SJAbbott

      @liamgooding This guy is clearly a customer service diamond, but the magic is that Starbucks gives him permission to deliver it. They trust him, and the culture inspires him. There is no way a service trainer could tell employees about this tactic—it comes from the heart and charm of a person who understands a service relationship. HR lesson: Hire awesome people and get out of their way.

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  • I have a pattern of being a day late, but I saw this yesterday, and it was nice to read a happy story this week!!!
    Exactly to @jeanniecw , @Adam | Customer Experience and your points, this just happened over the weekend at Perfection Tire: I’ve been going there for years but I don’t know if these guys know me by name or not so I called to make an appt not expecting them to know who I am. I said, “This is Lisa Gerber and I need to make an appt to…” and he goes, “LISA GERBER?!?!?! never heard of the lady!!!” very jokingly.
    As ridiculous as that sounds, he immediately boosted my mood. I was thinking to myself – look what this guy did, I’m all sitting up straight and laughing with him! Tiny things like that make the customer feel special and don’t cost a dime. and it wins loyalty.

    • @Lisa GerberExactly! It really doesn’t have to be huge. It’s typically a series of little things. I mean, you will remember that moment, right? It’s just a moment, but it is all it takes!

    • @Lisa Gerber  It cracks me up he would say that to you! LOL!!

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  • Todd Nevins

    I needed this story today.  Thanks!!

  • Great story Gini! I am not sure it will make me switch from Caribou to Starbucks, but I am strongly considering it! What a win-win for you & Dan! If everyone could see that doing good or producing good was a cyclical thing, our world would be so much brighter! I love this!! Pay it forward!

    • @thefaxgirl Mmmm….I do love the chocolate covered espresso beans at Caribou.

  • LeeAdams

    Truly heartwarming! Thanks so much for sharing.


    It’s all about customer engagement.  Mr. D. gets it, knows it and lives it.  He’s a natural at it.  I bet he has great parents.

    • I bet he does! When I see someone behaving badly, I always assume their parents were terrible people, so it would be reasonable to guess that his parents must have been great. Wonderful point!

    • @ShepHyken Did you see his dad commented up there ^^??

      • @ginidietrich Yes!  Very COOL!

      • @ginidietrich  @ShepHyken I just did! That is awesome.

  • Gtrowe24

    I am Dan’s dad and we love the story. He gets his wit from his papa. We are very proud of him,

    • @Gtrowe24 You SHOULD be proud of him! He’s awesome. One of my very favorite people. And I can tell, by this one comment, he clearly gets his wit from you.

      • MelissaTurnerJones

        @ginidietrich  @Gtrowe24 
        I know both Dan _and_ his parents and can attest to the fact that they’re all pretty awesome!

    • @Gtrowe24 Hello Dan’s Dad!  It all starts with the parents!

      • Gtrowe24

        Okay. I give mom credit.

        • @Gtrowe24 You have to.  She deserves it!

  • Curious, did @Starbucks ever see this?

    • @delwilliams  Yes, they did! It’s been all over the place, as is evidenced by all the social shares.

  • CanadianBudgetB

    What a great story.. loved this!  This is what loving life is all about!

    • @CanadianBudgetB Thank YOU for including it in your weekly wrap-up! I just wish it’d come with oatmeal cookies.

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  • Aunt Bs Kitchen

    Great post.  I’ve been working in customer service related jobs for more than 30 years and I can tell you from experience that every personal touch counts.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have several customers become friends and my life is so much richer for it.

    • @Aunt Bs Kitchen It’s so important yet we all seem to forget about that personal touch. I’ll bet your customers love having you as a friend.

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  • Tony Vignieri

    Awesome story!!!

    • @Tony Vignieri Wow! It even got Tony to comment!

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  • This is why it’s so important to enable all employees to work “off-script”. Everyone is in marketing and customer service, even if they aren’t. Every person in your company can plus or minus your brand, and companies like Starbuck’s, Southwest, Dell, ThinkGeek that let their employees be HUMAN are kicking the stuffing out of companies that require robotic and slavish adherence to the approved playbook. Love this story.

    • @JayBaer I LOVE ThinkGeek! Awesome company and love their irreverent sense of humor.

  • TacklingOurDebt

    Your Starbucks story is amazing! As they say, you can’t make this stuff up. I’ve shared it out on my blog as well and people love it. Thanks for your comment too.
    My husband and I love Starbucks probably as much as you and your husband and the people that work there are typically over the top friendly but that is a big part of what their brand is built on. Fun, friendly, customer service that makes you want to keep going back.

    • @TacklingOurDebt Thank you for sharing it on your blog! It’s crazy how something like this makes a person’s day. I think, in this digital world, we forget to treat each other like human beings.

  • Amazing story ! It’s nice to know that there are great people out there still and some sort of personal interaction in this globalized world of ours.

  • And this is why I too love Starbucks. It was my first job in high school and I worked there through college as well. I enjoyed it more than working at a restaurant because you truly have an opportunity to get to know your frequent customers. Many of them gave me money for graduation and I will never forget one customer (knowing I was from Hawaii) has grown a plumeria tree in their backyard and made me a lei out of it!

    • @rachaelseda OMG! That’s freaking amazing, Rach. Wow.

  • MordecaiHoltz

    great lesson on great service

  • MordecaiHoltz

    yeah this is pretty amazing on all fronts!

    • @MordecaiHoltz Isn’t it??

      • MordecaiHoltz

        @ginidietrich yea i think its a unique effort that teaches us all a lesson…

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  • rodbutcher

    It’s a great story – I retweeted it – and reinforcement of the power of people, who after all, ARE the brand.
    Over here in the UK, though, Starbucks are caught up in a tax row, and also have just announced cut backs to staff benefits – see link below.
    So, this is one to watch with interest, ie, will the customer experience degrade if the employee experience suffers?

    • @rodbutcher I’ve been watching that issue over there. It’s not good!

  • I love stories like this!  Wow, the Spin Sucks blog is awesome.  Heard about it from a Bean Cast podast.  Lot of good stuff here.  Nice work.

    • @jephreymaystruck Oh very cool! Which reminds me…I’m on there again next week. Welcome to the world of the crazies!

  • noircorvette

    I loved this story, as a former Starbucks Barista, and as a life long customer. The interaction I get with the baristas totally makes a difference if I frequent that location. This experience you had made me cry, because it was just so sweet. I wish there were more baristas like him.

    • @noircorvette I wish so too! My Starbucks experience is just not the same.

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