Starbucks, Customer Service Recovery, and What Happens at Your Church…

Even when it’s not really their fault, the baristas at my Starbucks know how to make things right.

Facing a writing deadline today, I needed a little caffeine boost and a change in venue. I headed over to my Starbucks for my favorite breakfast: Tall White Chocolate Mocha and an chocolate croissant. The barista told me that he was sorry, they were out of the White Chocolate syrup. That’s no big deal for me – there are plenty of other drinks to choose from. I paid and walked over to grab a table.

On the way, I ran into a couple of friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and we began catching up. Within a couple of minutes I heard my beverage being called, so I went to the counter and grabbed it from a different barista and headed back to my table.

As I sat down, I realized I had not received my croissant, so I went up to the counter to get it. With a horrified look on his face, the second barista said “I’m so sorry we forgot your pastry,” and handed me this:


This voucher is Starbuck’s way of saying “we goofed, but we want to make it up to you.”

He explained that the voucher was good for any size beverage anytime at any Starbucks location. The first barista joined the conversation and added that he was sorry to disappoint me about having to choose another beverage, and but then to forget my pastry? “Unacceptable.” The other barista also apologized, and the pastry was brought out to my table when it was warmed less than a minute later – again with an apology.

Breakdowns in service are unavoidable, even in a well-run organization like Starbucks (and this is the first time in over 4 years at “my” Starbucks that a mistake has been made).  Service breakdowns, while unavoidable, are a great opportunity for an organization to show what they’re made of, an opportunity to bring a customer closer to you.

Starbucks practiced these four steps to service recovery (thanks Micah Solomon!):

  1. Apologize and ask forgiveness
  2. Review the complaint with the customer
  3. Fix the problem and then follow-up
  4. Document the problem to allow a permanent fix (later I heard the shift leader talking with the barista who took my order)

I was already a regular customer, and it was really no big deal.

But they (the whole staff at the time) made it a big deal…

…and reinforced my positive feelings and actions towards “my” Starbucks (and by extension, to the Starbucks brand) even more.

Here’s the lesson for ChurchWorld:

I’m willing to guess that things don’t always go peachy at your place every weekend. Shortage of volunteers, room assignments messed up, AVL problems in the worship experience, sermon that didn’t preach like you wrote it, etc.

It’s going to happen.

But what happens next is up to you, and might just make all the difference in the world in one of your Guests coming back again next week.



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