The power of exceptional service

October 16, 2009

This is a bit of a rant, so bear with me.

I wanted to sip a hot drink for lunch while I taught, today. A grande, nonfat chai latte from my neighborhood Starbucks Drive-Thru was just the ticket: big enough and hot enough to last through the short drive to school and at least the first part of class.

The guy ahead had a very long conversation with the barista at the window. Seven or eight minutes before my turn came.

As I drove out, I took a swig. My drink was lukewarm. Forget the first half of class, or even the drive, it wouldn’t last more than one minute. It probably sat too long, while the driver in front me talked.

I had options, but what I didn’t have was the time for them to remake it. I did have time to go back and get a refund. So I did.

Starbucks likes to think it has knack for developing strong customer relationships.

I don’t need to be friends with my barista, but I do appreciate good service. Several California Starbucks I frequented were very free with “the next one’s on us” cards, if we had to wait an inordinate period, or if something went wrong. It gave Starbucks a little bit of a halo in my book.

At this Starbucks, in Tampa near Target on Gandy, baristas hadn’t had that training. They weren’t even that apologetic. I won’t visit that one again.

A few years ago, I had a similar experience at a hair salon. I’d left work early and the stylist hadn’t bothered to call to say he was running late. After a 30-minute wait, without his even acknowledging me, I walked out and never returned. He was, after all, just a hair stylist. Not the Pope or anything.

We’ve all had that kind of experience at restaurants; I can think of two in Tampa that I’ve had bad service from in just the past year. Most people just suck it up. We don’t have the time or the energy to take it further.

Conversely, an excellent customer service experience can keep a customer coming even when there are more convenient or less expensive alternatives. Certainly, my new hair salon is less convenient, but I love going there because they do quality work, they’re customer service oriented and my stylist is always on time.

Customer service is apparently a lost art. My friend, LeDandy of Northern California, blogged on exceptional service the other day.

And I saw a great post by travel blogger Chris Elliott. For a case study involving how great customer service is executed, check out his post on Continental airlines. (Chris is a travel blogger and a former travel reporter I met when he interviewed me about my cat escaping on a plane.)

Here’s his Continental Airlines post:

3 comments on “The power of exceptional service
  1. Alan says:

    Yes, this is a topic that puzzles me. With the bad state of the eoonomy, you’d think businesses and employees would be motivated towards excellence. Many places deserve to fail.

    If it makes you feel any better, coffee service in SF sucks too! I take my own coffee to work in a thermos.

  2. alan, assuming we can find a house, we are in the countdown now: 3 months till the move!

  3. Alan says:

    Glad to hear it!! Good luck.

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