Who’s Your Customer: Regulars or Visitors?

by Emily Jasper on October 28, 2009

The other day I was in a Starbucks. Nothing really unusual, I love my Starbucks.

This is a new Starbucks for me, one that I’ve never been to before. It’s one that stands alone and has a drive-through. Since cars were wrapped around the building and lining up in the adjoining parking lot, I thought I’d be super savvy and walk into the store, assuming the long line of cars was because the weather just plain sucked.

Inside, there was a large group of people. I figured out which group actually consisted of the line, gave my order, and stepped away to wait. I began to notice that there were three women working the morning rush. One on register, one on drive through, and one making coffee…for both the drive through and register. I realized this could take a while. Standing there, three people walked in, took a look, and walked away, one because the woman at the register was nowhere to be found.

As I watch the coffees being made in the most inefficient manner possible, I listened into the barista chatter. “Has Joe come through the drive through yet?” “No, but I’m sure it’ll be in the next few minutes, remember his usual?”

What? They were talking about a regular, who hadn’t even arrived yet, and I could tell my their tone/looks on their faces that they were even contemplating preparing his drink now…ahead of the 9 people waiting in the store!

After 15 minutes of waiting, I got my coffee. As I walked to my car, sure enough, the coffee was wrong. Now, I don’t order grande-non-fat-light-whip-two-pump-extra-hot-mochas. I had a simple caramel macchiato. But there was nothing in the coffee, just the caramel drizzled on top. According to the website, there’s supposed to be vanilla flavoring. I take it in, and tell them it’s missing something, that with all the orders waiting, it might have gotten mixed up.

And then, the woman behind the register tells me I’m wrong. Like I’ve never had coffee before.

I was so shocked that I went from mildly disgruntled to flat-out angry. “Look, you’re understaffed this morning, I understand why there are going to be mistakes. But I’m not the one losing customers.”

As I left, she yelled as an afterthought, “We can make it again for you!”

“And make all these people wait longer?” I replied. A guy on the way out muttered to himself, “I bet you mine will be wrong, should have just gone to the gas station.”

Now, I love Starbucks. The team that works in my building is phenomenal. The locations in malls and airports always have great service. The poor customer service and performance of this one store, however, can probably be linked back to a manager who didn’t schedule correctly, and probably has a mixed message approach to customer loyalty. They favor regulars.

This brings up all kinds of issues of corporate vs. local brand management. Should one store’s performance reflect poorly on a corporate brand? It usually does. I would say because my experiences everywhere else are always so great that this is a freak occurrence. I’ll be purchasing coffee there until the company goes away (which will probably be never).

But, I’m a Starbucks regular. Shouldn’t I be treated as such, no matter the location?

The views expressed in my blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

I have received no form of incentive for writing about Starbucks and its products, services, or brand.

Photo from clipart.