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.



Until a Problem Occurs, the Guest Doesn’t Get to See You Fully Strut Your Service

Does your approach to Guest Experiences include an effective problem resolution process?

Service breakdowns and other problems experienced by Guests are crucial moments in an organization’s attempt to establish a relationship with someone. It only stands to reason, then, that solving these problems will have a potentially outsized impact on your organization’s success. That’s why you need an effective problem resolution process.

There’s no better way to illustrate this than a personal experience that just happened with my wife:

guest service bell

A Positive Disappointment

My wife travels often in her business, mostly to the same cities, staying in the same hotels, and eating in a lot of the same restaurants. This week she was out of town most of the week – including her birthday.

While I had made special birthday plans for her later (it will be very evident what those are!), I also wanted to make her birthday a little special. I had hidden cards, snacks, and magazines she likes but never gets to read in her suitcase and briefcase; she enjoyed finding them.

She stays at the same hotel for several days each month, and has for several years, always talking about how good they are when it comes to guest services. I thought I would talk to the staff there to see what kind of special birthday treat they could arrange. I was not asking for a freebie, just their help in arranging it.

Tuesday, the morning of her birthday, while she was flying to her destination, I called the hotel staff and talked to the Guest Services director. She recognized my wife as a regular guest and seemed to know who she was. We agreed on an appropriate surprise, and I was assured it would be delivered to my wife upon her arrival after a full day of meetings and site inspections. And, by the way, it was compliments of the hotel.

In the mid-afternoon, someone from the food/beverage staff called, confirming the arrangements. Everything was ready to go.

Except the birthday treat wasn’t delivered on her birthday.

Or the next day.

Or the next day.

At the end of the second day, unable to contain my curiosity, I asked her if she had received anything unusual in her room. “No,” she replied, adding, “As a matter of fact, my room had not been serviced so I called down to ask for more towels and bath supplies, and they didn’t deliver them as promised. I had to go down and ask for them in person. And they never cleaned my room while I was here.”

Strike One, Two, and Three all in one swing.

While my wife doesn’t share my Guest Experience passion with quite the same enthusiasm as I do, she is very attuned to it and decided to wait until checkout to bring the matter up.

At checkout, she brought up all the misses with the front desk: the failed birthday treat, the missing supplies, and the lack of cleaning of the room. With an apology, the front desk clerk said she would let the manager know.

On the way to the airport, my wife received a very polite and apologetic email from the General Manager of the property, with the following actions:

  • Thanks for being a regular guest
  • Acknowledging my wife’s status in their rewards program
  • Acknowledging the plans their staff had worked out with me in advance
  • Detailing, by position, where they dropped the ball on the treat
  • Acknowledging that the failure to clean was inexcusable
  • Acknowledging that having to come down in person was inexcusable
  • Apologizing for the three misses
  • Stating that she had addressed, personally, the misses with the staff and supervisors involved
  • Acknowledging how valuable my wife’s business and loyalty to their hotel was
  • Applying a generous rewards bonus to my wife’s account
  • Stating the hotel chain’s and her pride in delivering great service to guests
  • Apologizing again for the three misses
  • Requesting that my wife notify her personally the next time she is a guest so the GM can make sure the experience is 100%
  • Thanking my wife again for her business and wishing her a good weekend

I would call those actions an effective problem resolution process.

Effective, in this case, is measured by whether Guest satisfaction has been restored. In my wife’s case, it was. She’s looking forward to returning to the hotel next month.

Effective Problem Resolution can be challenging, but is well worth the effort. Hospitality studies have shown that when you resolve a service problem effectively, the Guest is more likely to become loyal than if she had never run into a problem in the first place.

Because until a problem occurs, the Guest doesn’t really get to see you fully strut your service.

(effective problem resolution process inspired by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon’s book Exceptional Service, Execptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five Star Customer Organization)