I hope you don’t mind a little story, and a break from Starbucks updates.  I was just thinking that great customer service means treating everybody that the business deals with as if they will be a great customer, whether or not they already are.  Last night after I got off work, I hopped on a bus to the Whole Foods at Westlake and Denny.  I did some grocery shopping.  From the Whole Foods, I always do the exact same thing every visit:  I walk up to upper level of that complex, and stop into the Starbucks for a beverage.  From there, I always walk outside looking for a cab.  I don’t have far to go, but I’m not keen on walking up a hill in the dark, with a bag of groceries.

That Starbucks is immediately adjacent to the Pan Pacific Hotel, so there are usually cabs coming and going.  If there is not a cab immediately available, I walk over to the young doormen at the hotel and ask them to call a cab for me.

I have done this same routine many, many times.  The young guys who work at Pan Pacific Hotel are astonishingly friendly.  Usually, they run to open the door of the hotel, and I then stop to explain that I am not a guest of the hotel.  Actually, sometimes the Pan Pacific Hotel guys are so friendly that they make the adjacent Starbucks feel a little gloomy in comparison.  (And they’re often handsome young men too!).  Nobody has ever said anything like, ‘you must be a hotel guest for us to call you a cab.’

Last night, with a bag of groceries in one hand, and a Starbucks hot chocolate in the other, I asked a Pan Pacific Hotel guy to call me a cab.  He said to me, “Where are you going?”  I told him where I live.  The young guy – John was his name – exclaimed, “Oh that’s not far at all!”  And then he walked towards the Pan Pacific SUV-type car, opened the passenger side door, and said, “I’ll give you a ride!”  I stopped just before climbing in the big vehicle, and said, “Wait.  I’m not a guest of the hotel.”  The young man simply said, “Don’t worry about it.  It’s a very short trip!”  The episode also reminded me of an article I read once (I can’t find it again) that said that great customer service knows when to bend or break the rules.

And then he gave me a ride home.  Of course I did tip him, in case you’re wondering.

I just thought that was amazing.  It seems like the guys at the Pan Pacific Hotel treat everyone as if they will be  a great customer, whether or not they already are.  Trust me, I’d recommend that hotel should someone ask me where to stay in Seattle!

My apologies for the very non-Starbuckian blog article.  I thought it was an interesting lesson in customer service.

Happy New Year everyone!