Expectations for Customer Service (and Life)!

I want to address the concept of a “customer having the same experience” every time they visit a Starbucks store, and let’s look at the components of that experience as it relates to our expectations.

Now, I think expectations are resentments waiting to happen.

How so?

Well first it means that I given up on allowing an experience to ‘just happen’. I’ve decided in advance of the happening, how it should be. And, rarely do things ‘happen’ the way that I thought that they should have happened. Then, when this expectation isn’t fulfilled, I’m disappointed, or even sometimes resentful.
Here’s an example:

Your kid gets ready to leave home for college; the school assigned him/her a roommate, based on whatever or however they do such a thing. Prior to the kid’s arrival on campus, they receive from the school contact information on the person that they’ve been assigned to, in hopes that the two will make contact with one another prior to their arrival on campus, and perhaps even find some common interests or goals.

Move in day arrives, your kid walks into the dorm room and sees the other kid standing there, and they immediately begin to size the other one up. If one kid is dressed with designer labels on their clothing, and the other kid is more natural, earthy, they will immediately judge each other as being different from one another. If they have different body shapes or “looks” accents, or skin color, then more judgments.

Without uttering a word, these students will size the other up, and think that they somehow know the other person, even if just a little, or even assume something specific about what the other person is like.

Okay, so what, then?

The designer label kid is probably going to be judged by the earthy kid, as shallow, materialistic, preppy, and rich, sorority girl, a snob, etc…

The earthy kid might judge as brainy or a dropout, uncaring about the finer things in life, poor, lazy, even a druggy, etc…

For these two to get along, they will have to first exhibit tolerance and an appreciation for the fact that they’re different from each other, but are alike in some ways. They must find the areas of interest or likeness that they share in common, or they have little chance of surviving as roommates for an entire semester.

To do this, they have to get rid of any expectations of one another; they have to be open to finding the areas of commonality that are more important to them than the way things appear or look.

It’s very possible to do this if they can drop their expectations. They will have to listen carefully to one another, and use this ‘sense’ to really ‘see’ what the other is about.

Here’s a personal example:

I belong to a group where most of the guys are professionals and are gainfully employed. For the most part, the group is well mannered, well spoken, dressed somewhat conservatively, and we have few if any tattooed members…except for one member (there’s always that one!)! I have sat in that room week after week, year after year, sometimes catching myself focusing on the tattooed one.

Never listening to what he says, but focusing on my own preconceived judgments of people who would tattoo themselves, along with expectations I would have of that type of person. In this instance, I have no preconceived expectations of this person doing anything right, or well. I expect him to speak poorly, dress like a gang banger (which he does), drive a motorcycle, come from the wrong side of the tracks, wear his ball cap backwards (which he does), and a few other traits. He’s also a body builder, so if he’s a gang banger, then he must be a ‘bad’ one, so I wanted to, and did, stay clear of him before and after meetings. At some point at one of our meetings, unavoidably we ended up talking briefly. Whatever he said, or didn’t say, created some interest in me about this guy, enough so that the next time I heard him talk in one of the meetings, I listened. And over a period of time, I’ve heard some areas of commonality.

Turns out, he’s not a gang banger at all, though he dresses like one. He was raised in Beverly Hills, graduated from Beverly Hills High School (the school crest, shown below right, is inscribed “Today well Lived”), his father was a successful producer who retired and moved his family to the beach. The guy doesn’t drive a low-rider truck as I would have presumed, but a new BMW. He has been a successful entrepreneur in his twenties and hasn’t worked since. Now in his early 40’s, he’s back in college finishing his degree. He’s very well spoken, has excellent manners, and sports a near full body tattoo. Now that is about as incongruous to my preconceived ideas about a tattooed person as I can think of.

Somehow, I heard this guy when he spoke to me that evening. I was somehow open to hearing him. Sure I kept my prejudgment of him near the surface of my thoughts the first time we talked, but I had to have put them far enough way to allow something to happen…to allow me to listen to what this fellow had to say.

Since then, we’ve had coffee after meetings, and have had some really fun and meaningful conversations. When I walk into a coffee shop or retail store with the tattooed one, I can’t help but snicker at those who seem to immediately judge him for the way he looks, and me for being with him!
Wow! What a great thing to be able to see. I feel like I’ve got a new pair of glasses with which to see!

The skill in both of these examples is listening. Really listening to what the other person was saying. Listening allowed me to put away forever my preconceived idea of who this person was. Had I not been able to listen to this man, I wouldn’t be able to count this man as one of my friends today.

‘So what’s the point?’ you ask. “How does this tie-in to Starbucks Customer Service Policy”?
I thought you’d never ask! Thank you!
When I walk into a Starbucks, I do have an expectation of how that experience is going to be, and I have to admit, that experience is about the same one that they’re counting on: The transaction is quick and efficient; the Latte tastes the same every time; I say, “thank you”, and the barista says, “no problem.”
But I’m not happy with that experience! I want my business to be appreciated! I want the barista to thank me! Yes, he/she should thank me! I want to say “you’re welcome,” just once.
But it’s not going to happen the way I want it too. I’m the customer, but that’s not the way their employees are trained. They’re trained to do it a certain way, and manners have nothing to do with it.

So what gives? Accept this shoddy service, this lack of appreciation for my business? Absolutely not! At the price that I pay for a cup of Starbucks coffee, as compared to what I used to pay for a cup of coffee pre-Starbucks, I expect more.

If I put .75 cents into a vending machine for a cup of coffee, I don’t have any expectation for this ‘cup of Joe’, other than that it contains the ingredients and tastes halfway decent. I don’t even expect the machine to say “no problem.”

Now, see my point? And, yes, that is a Starbucks coffee vending machine you see, above. Am I so far off now?
So what can Starbucks expect? I believe they can ‘expect’ a continued decrease in their business. They’ve closed stores, scaled back plans for opening new stores, and who knows what else is on the radar for them. Further, they’ve opened the door both regionally and nationally for their competition from the likes of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or Peet’s Coffee & Tea (both California based coffee chain stores), or for anybody else that can ‘build a better mouse trap.’ Their competitors here in California aren’t competing with them for a lower price per cup of coffee, or with a better location, or even a different or better flavor of coffee; they’re doing it with good old customer service, and they say ‘thank you’ when they hand you your cup of coffee.

There has never been a substitute for customer service, and there never will be. As long as companies, retailers, and service sector industries continue to miss this important business component, there will always be room at the top.

To my Dear Anonymous Reader responding to the Customer Service: Part I Article

Thank you for responding to my article, I really appreciate it. Customer testimonies weren’t used for this article, because it’s my opinion of the coffee shop that lacks customer service, and it’s my belief that it can be done better. I’m the owner of retail stores, and in today’s business environment if we didn’t excel at customer service we’d absolutely be out of business. Why is our business growing in this economy? Is it because my company’s Internet website is the biggest, fastest, contains the broadest selection, and the cheapest prices? NO. “Today’s” way of doing business isn’t the reason for our growth, and none of those attributes of “current” successful businesses in this web based world have anything to do with our success. It’s customer service. Pure and simple. There is no substitute for it, and there never will be.
Regarding my mentors you said, “they are not cutting edge Sellers…a dying breed”, I beg to differ. Neiman Marcus is one of the most successful high-end retailers on this planet; likewise, Ebby Halliday Realtors is among the largest independently owned real estate company’s in the world. Both of these ‘mentors’ are very easy to check out, and I encourage you to do so.

Lastly, you ask, “But what is good about cusotmer service these days?”
Everything about receivng and giving good customer service is rewarding to both the customer and the giver. People are working harder and making less, and care about how and where they spend their hard earned money. I know that I would be a lot more likely to give up my hard earned cash to someone who offered me good customer service than to someone who didn’t. I do see your points, and I thank you for sharing.

Please join me for CUSTOMER SERVICE: Part III

Good Night Moon

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