What a bad cup of coffee can teach you about good customer service 

 March 24, 2010

By  Pascal Depuhl

Food photograph of a freshly poured cup of coffee
A nice cup of coffee

Yesterday I’m scouting a location for one of my photography clients and turn into the local Starbucks to grab a mocha (extra shot). I get my cup of joe and go back to my car to drive back home.

Soon after drinking the first few sips, I’m thinking that something doesn’t taste quite right. At first I attribute it to the heat of the beverage, but as I am diving along I realize that this is not a good cup of coffee. In fact, I feel that it is so bad that I turn around to drive back to the store, look for a parking space and go back inside, letting the manager know that this drink is the ‘worst coffee I have ever had.’

So far so good. All I really want to do is let them know that I am not happy. I don’t expect anything in return, I don’t ask for anything – just the statement of fact – pure and simple.

I know plenty of businesses that will at this point argue with the customer: ‘You drank some of it already’, ‘I know how to make coffee better than you, I’m a barista, and you have no clue’, …

I got to say hats off to Starbucks. AWESOME customer service – here’s what happened. The barista takes my cup, apologizes for my dissatisfaction, makes me the same caffeine drink again and hands it to me with a coupon for a free beverage and says ‘Your next drink is on us.’

Kuddos to Starbucks! What was an unsatisfied, unhappy customer turned into a fan of the way you handle people in 2 minutes for the price of 2 cups of coffee.

How do you treat your customers? We all know the saying customer is king, but do you really treat him that way or do you defer to the small print on your contract or receipt?

When is the last time you wowed a customer and blew him away, even though it cost you time and money? I guarantee you you will turn an unhappy customer around that will be loyal to your brand and your company.

Thanks for the lesson, Starbucks (and the free cup of coffee).

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    Pascal Depuhl

    Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.