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Gini Dietrich

A Fantastic Starbucks Customer Experience Story

By: Gini Dietrich | October 30, 2012 | 
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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.

192 comments
noircorvette
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.

jephreymaystruck
jephreymaystruck

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.

 

Jeph

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

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!

GillianatMAG
GillianatMAG

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.

TacklingOurDebt
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.

JayBaer
JayBaer

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. 

Aunt Bs Kitchen
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.

CanadianBudgetB
CanadianBudgetB

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

delwilliams
delwilliams

Curious, did @Starbucks ever see this? 

Gtrowe24
Gtrowe24

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

ShepHyken
ShepHyken

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. 

LeeAdams
LeeAdams

Truly heartwarming! Thanks so much for sharing.

thefaxgirl
thefaxgirl

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!

Todd Nevins
Todd Nevins

I needed this story today.  Thanks!!

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

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. 

liamgooding
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!

chemam
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
chemam

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

rdopping
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.

InfoSara
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!

ifdyperez
ifdyperez

This was SUCH a cool story. I loved following it. :)

EdenSpodek
EdenSpodek

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.

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

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.

Latest blog post: The Room with the Views

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

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.

debdobson62
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. 

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

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.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

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

jennimacdonald
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.

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

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.

terence.stephens
terence.stephens

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

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

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. 

Latest blog post: Poetry Friday: Jack Kerouac

patrickreyes
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."

Adam | Customer Experience
Adam | Customer Experience

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.

GeoffReiner
GeoffReiner

 @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!

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

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.

bradmarley
bradmarley

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

KenMueller
KenMueller

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
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.

T60Productions
T60Productions

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

LouHoffman
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.

lauraclick
lauraclick

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!

Hajra
Hajra

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! 

Latest blog post: How much is Honesty Worth?

Trackbacks

  1. […] you’re an avid reader of Gini Dietrich’s Spin Sucks you will have read her fantastic story of the ultimate Starbucks customer experience. Those of us […]

  2. […] a look at this extraordinary barista. Dan took the initiative and made this lady’s day special and entertaining by carrying a […]

  3. […] Fantastic Starbucks Customer Experience Story spinsucks.com/social-media/a… via @spinsucksFollow Mr.CBB On Twitter! 2 hours ago Follow […]

  4. […] This is one of the most amazing customer service stories ever. What will you do next week to delight a customer? Tell us! […]

  5. […] Gini Dietrich at SpinSucks wrote a blog post that I guarantee will put a smile on your face. A Fantastic Starbucks Customer Experience Story […]

  6. […] going, but it might not be good for my blood pressure. So, I’ll leave you with this lovely story of outstanding customer experience. It makes me feel SO much better. Special thanks to […]

  7. […] they have their favorite store or why they choose the brand they do. A co worker of mine found this recent article that I absolutly adored and figured I had to share on my blog. It is not a barista/customer love […]

  8. […] hear and celebrate stories of fantastic customer experiences. This one about a barista at Starbucks is getting a lot of attention lately. It’s amazing what some people are capable of when on the […]

  9. […] Starbucks for example, what might be perceived as a low engagement […]

  10. […] A Fantastic Starbucks Customer Experience Story — An excellent example of how a creative and motivated employee can create magic for a customer. […]

  11. […] to The Social Skinny, “Social media users who receive excellent customer service from brands spend on average 21 percent more than non-social customers” and 55 percent of […]

  12. […] social network got in on the game, voting on ways to respond to questions and comments.  It’s as sweet story if you want to read the whole thing – but the social outcome was sweeter.  In a world where most […]

  13. […] follow this link if you want to read more about […]

  14. […] few months ago, Gini Dietrich told the story of Dan, the Starbucks barista who engaged in a long-distance conversation with her through coffee […]

  15. […] 「お客さん」というくくりではなく、「このお客さん」というように、自分だけに向けられた心遣いがとても嬉しいものです。シカゴに行ったら、Danさんが働いているTrump International HotelのSixteenというレストランに行ってみたいですね。   【出典:SPIN SUCKS】 […]

  16. […] But baristas love to talk to their customers. Their customers love to talk about Starbucks, in person, on social media, on blogs……with each other not with Starbucks. Yes lots of people post photos involving Starbucks. And 53,000 take an action on the Page each day. But they have 10,000,000 (big number eh?) customer person to person touch points each day. And that trumps Facebook’s cold impersonal relationships brands have with their fans…I mean you talk to a logo! hello! […]

  17. […] @ifdyperez I’m kind of bummed it’s over! by ginidietrich […]

  18. […] a customer long term and them losing that special bond. When my friend Gini Dietrich‘s Starbucks Barista left how many of his peers or even the store manager knew he helped that location build a better […]

  19. […] Another great example is the interaction between a Barista at Starbucks and a customer where they communicated for 4 months via messages on the customer’s coffee cup. Now, that is customer experience gold. […]

  20. […] is littered with testimonials of stories of exemplary service. Gini Dietrich shares her fantastic Starbucks story at Spin […]

  21. […] and deliver remarkable experiences in spite of them. Whether that’s by acting proactively, personalizing messages or coming up with surprises, creativity is often the difference between “average” and […]