6 Tips for a Great Experience at Starbucks. (A Response).
This week, BusinessInsider.com published an article called “6 Tricks for Getting Better Service at Starbucks.” I read through that article, and decided I would write my own response. As I read through the 6 tips listed in the BusinessInsider.com article, I was surprised in that it just simply wasn’t at all what I was thinking of in terms of tips for a good experience at Starbucks.
First off, I think it is difficult to define even what a “good” experience is at Starbucks. The fact of the matter is that the Starbucks Experience is made up of the store experience (how clean, comfy and welcoming), the interactions with the partners (are they friendly, genuine, knowledgeable and passionate about their work?), the speed of service (how long did you wait?), and the beverage quality (did you get a drink just as you had hoped it would be?). The best you can do is hope that a store striving to be the best in all of those things. But the reality is that a “good experience” is a little bit subjective. For some customers, it’s only about being fast in getting a drink. Other customers place great weight on the interactions with the partners. And other customers just want a comfy seat to plop down in. Not all customers want the same thing. And of course, a very large number of customers hope their experience is perfect in every single way.
With the above caveats, here are my six tips (in no particular order) for a great experience at Starbucks. (I strongly recommend that you read the original BusinessInsider.com article first.)
1. Know your order:
This is going to seem silly, but one of the most significant things you can do as a customer to ensure a great experience is to know how to order. I completely recognize that if you only visit Starbucks once every few months, this can be a challenge. If you can say your order accurately and precisely, it will make it much more likely that the barista will be able to make it exactly as you like. And it also means that there is a lower chance that you’ll need to have your beverage remade, which only involves more waiting. So if your favorite beverage is a “tall vanilla latte at 135 degrees,” then that’s what you need to say. Trying to order a “not very hot” drink leads to ambiguity. If you think you want a “pumpkin pie Frappuccino,” then once you have a drink you love, try to remember what it was. A tall “Pumpkin Spice Creme-based Frappuccino with cinnamon dulce syrup” is much more specific than just a “pumpkin pie Frappuccino.” Granted, for many customers this is a matter of trial and error. But ultimately when you have a drink handed to that you love, make a mental note of exactly what it was. If you have to, take a picture of all the cup markings on the side of the cup. Your friendly neighborhood barista has special drink cup de-coding skills. By the way, if you really want the quickest beverage to get in and out, I think that basic brewed coffee is still one of the fastest things to order.
2. Look for great experiences at Starbucks: Coffee tastings, Reserve – Clover Starbucks, and Evenings Starbucks.
You can have great experiences at any Starbucks. However, it is fun to sometimes seek out those stores that offer something special, not found at all stores. Or, ask your store if there are some coffee tastings you can sit in on. Learning about the difference between Espresso Roast, Willow Blend, Kenya, Sumatra, and all the core coffees is a lot of fun. If you find an Evenings Starbucks, there will be beer and wine available, as well as some different food options. I fully believe that you can have great experiences at any store. But I also believe it’s fun to try something new and special that Starbucks offers. The Reserve – Clover Starbucks locations offer unique, exquisite whole bean coffees that others don’t have available.
3. Get to know your baristas and Starbucks stores near you.
It’s a customer service business. The baristas try hard to be nice to everyone. No doubt, if you’re friendly, forgiving, and get to know your baristas, that will be meaningful. Starbucks always says, “We’re in the people business serving coffee.” There’s a lot of truth to that. Establishing a friendly rapport with your barista will go a long way for a great experience. And your baristas will get to know “your drink” too.
Not all Starbucks stores are the same. If you have a few Starbucks near you, it might be worth it to try and figure out if there is one that is a little more suited to your liking. The experience can vary somewhat from store to store. There are a couple of Starbucks stores in Seattle that I simply do not enjoying hanging out in. I can think of one in particular that is always packed, noisy, and difficult to find a seat at.
4. Put money in the tip jar.
Your baristas do a lot of hard work. They’re on their feet all day. They’re up at the wee hours of the morning. They have a physically demanding job. And they have an enormous pressure to live up to the gold standard of customer service which Starbucks is known for. They hand you a fantastic beverage, which makes you smile. Tips mean something. I think baristas notice tips too. If you don’t have money one trip in to Starbucks, when you come back a second time, tip a little more. A lot of baristas count on their tips for a little extra money for groceries or other living expenses. I fundamentally believe in giving in life. And tips are one way to tell a barista you appreciate them. While there isn’t a direct relationship between your tips and your experience, I think that when people feel appreciated in their work, they’re more likely to give 110%, which in turn means you’ll have a great experience.
5. Know where to stand. Have your form of payment ready.
These are little things, but generally everybody is going to have a better experience when the flow of the store is smooth. Many customers do not intuitively know that 90% of Starbucks stores are designed that the line to the register flows along the pastry case. The reason for this is clear. It’s the same reason that many stores have impulse items along where the line forms. Starbucks hopes you’ll be tempted by what’s in the pastry case. I recommend this older article of mine about where to stand at Starbucks. Once you get to the register, it will go a little smoother if you don’t have dig through your purse for loose change, or fumble for a piece of plastic. I would try to have your form of payment ready. It goes without saying, when you are standing at the register, don’t be on your cellphone trying to carrying on a conversation.
6. Learn about MyStarbucksRewards. Be a part of the loyalty program.
Let’s assume that you like getting a beverage, whole bean coffee, or a food item now and then at Starbucks. Being a part of the My Starbucks Rewards loyalty rewards program can bring one more level of fun into your Starbucks experience. If you want to join My Starbucks Rewards, you need to grab a Starbucks card (it can truly be any Starbucks card you like, including an Evolution Fresh card or Teavana card), load money onto that card, register it at Starbucks.com, and use it as your form of payment.
Once you are a part of My Starbucks Rewards, there are some immediate good things that happen. If you have registered at least 30 days before your birthday, you’ll receive a reward for a free birthday beverage (or food item, with some restrictions). This is not a post card that is mailed to you. You have to keep track of your digital rewards. I strongly recommend using the Starbucks mobile phone app for iPhone and Android to track your rewards. On your birthday, you’ll get a coupon for 15% off a purchase at StarbucksStore.com.
Each time you use your registered Starbucks card as a form of payment, you will earn a “star.” When you get to 30 stars, you’re “Gold.” Keep in mind, you can use and enjoy all the benefits of being at the gold level before you actually receive the physical gold card. You can use ANY registered Starbucks to receive all your benefits. Your benefits are associated with the profile you have at Starbucks.com, not a specific card.
So you can get a little more fun with your experience by being a part of My Starbucks Rewards. Eventually, you’ll get free in-store refills, special coupons and offers, and free drink (or food) rewards.
That’s it. If you have your own 6 tips, feel free to weigh in.
(I recognize that BusinessInsider.com reprinted older content from Quora.com, but it doesn’t change that I am still not a fan of the 6 tips listed on the BusinessInsider.com article.)