April 9, 2011
Walk into the Starbuck’s in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, and expect to hear some name-calling. The store manager and employees make it their business to memorize the names and coffee preferences of regular customers. The barista looks up from the espresso bar and greets you with a big smile, calls you by name, and asks you if you want your “usual.” The first thing you will notice when you walk into this Starbucks is the long line at the counter. It’s long not because the service is slow; it’s long because customers are continuously pouring through the front door. By the time you are through paying for your order, the barista has your custom coffee ready to go and wishes you a great day.
But there’s more to this service than good skills behind the counter. The manager and her team pay careful attention to the customers who stay in the store to drink their coffee. They are well aware that many business deals, job interviews, school projects, and planning meetings take place within the pleasant atmosphere of their store. On a day when I was meeting with business partners to discuss some important issues, an employee came over to our table and offered to turn down the music so we could hear each other better. Another time, during a lengthy meeting, the manager came over and said, “I noticed you’ve been here quite awhile, and I’d like to offer you a free refill on your latte.”
Being greeted by name gives customers a sense of belonging and comfort. What’s more, this coffee shop is creatively full-service to all of its patrons, not just those in business attire. Every Wednesday is children’s story time with “grandma.” A young employee invites the children of customers to gather around her as she reads wonderful stories to them. Story time gives mom a chance to catch up with a friend or grab a few minutes to relax. After just a few visits to this Starbucks, I felt right at home. I’ve even learned the names of few other regular customers. Being greeted by name gives customers a sense of belonging and comfort. They love hanging out in a place where they are treated like a friend.
It takes very little effort to learn a customer’s name. All you need to do is ask! People are surprised and delighted when they are valued for more than just the purchases they make. A personal greeting combined with a warm, sincere smile is the best marketing strategy any business can use. Customers are naturally drawn to places where they feel welcome–and they’ll invite their friends to join them.