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Customer Service…or Whatever

starbucks hipster barista

My wife and I walked into a local Starbuck’s. It was moderately full but there was only one other couple in line. I placed our order after the couple in front of us (tall, skinny chai; extra hot) and sat down to wait on our order. After our son was done explaining to us that the chair he was sitting in was the boy chair, and the other chair was the girl chair–meaning I was to sit with him and my wife in the other one–we looked around to see why our order was taking so long.

The couple in front of us had gotten their order and were doctoring their coffee with condiments. The “barista” behind the counter had a flicker of motivation as he looked down at the ready area of the Starbuck’s bar. He was a prototypical looking Starbuck’s barista. Mid-to-late twenties. Tall, skinny, bearded with thick framed glasses. A general demeanor of indifference. “TALL SKINNY CHAI EXTRA HOT.” I walked up to the bar to get our order.

Uh, your order has been ready for a bit but, uh, they forgot to call it out. If it’s not hot enough, I guess I can make you a new one or whatever.

starbucks mission fail

All this delivered while looking at the counter. As the barista finished with the “whatever” he turned and walked away to the other side of the bar. For a company who claims the following as their “mission,” it was a laughable failure.

The blame lays partly on Starbuck’s for hiring such a person and not managing & training him on how to deliver quality customer service. Yet, ultimately, the blame lays on the barrista himself, for not having the personal motivation, standards, and pride in his work. Some might say, “But it’s just Starbuck’s. It’s not what he really wants to do.” This is the excuse of the perennial under-achiever.

It doesn’t matter if you’re cutting lawns, washing cars, or scrubbing toilets–I’ve done all three–you have to take pride in what you do. It communicates volumes to clients. This is doubly true if you are on the front lines of where your business touches its customers. As Dan Hull regularly notes, when you work, you are marketing:

Every moment your law firm “works for a client”–it sends the client something, it talks with the client, it does virtually anything for or about that client that the client knows about or should know about–the firm transmits barrages of small but powerful ads. The client notices then and there.

Every single action you take that faces the client conveys something about you, your firm, your work. It’s never someone else’s responsibility. You have to be willing to lay your personal integrity on the line. That’s what it takes to play in the big leagues. Too much pressure? Oh well, have fun slinging coffee for the rest of your life, because that’s all your ever going to manage without taking ownership of your work, even if it is just serving coffee. Doing your best and working hard–even at menial tasks–sets the foundation for you to grow as a professional. It will seep into every aspect of your life. Other people will notice. It’s what you have to do to grow and prosper. Assuming a posture of indifference is poisonous. Avoid it like the plague.

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Think about the worst customer service experience you’ve had recently. How did it affect your perception of the person or business? Would you trust them again? Are you likely to return?

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About Keith Lee

I'm the founder and editor of Associate's Mind. I like to write, talk, and think about law, professional development, technology, and whatever else floats my boat. I practice law in Birmingham, AL.
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