Be Welcoming to Your Customers So They Don’t Have to Talk About You On Yelp


My family and I are enjoying a spring break get-away in Memphis. We came to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, the Slave Tavern and Beale Street. Yesterday my kids were in the mood for pizza and using my iPhone, I quickly found a cool-sounding pizza parlor online. The description said the parlor featured movies, books and famous pizza. We quickly pulled up the address on my husband’s iPhone and headed out for pizza. So quick in fact, that I didn’t take the time to read reviews, something I nearly always do.

We entered the pizza place in the middle of lunch time, yet no one was there. No customers, I mean. An employee emerged from the back and said, “Can I help Ya’ll?” Her body language was almost hostile. Her tone was defensive. I felt like we had accidentally barged in on a small family funeral. I said, “Are you open?” I felt I had to ask that because she came across like we were intruding and again, no customers were present. “Yeah, we’re open.” she said. Immediately, I wanted to leave because I didn’t like her attitude. We all felt so very unwelcome. In fact, I turned to my husband and suggested that we walk until we found something better. But my husband ushered us to a table. The lady that still stood near the kitchen didn’t walk us to a table. My husband did.

By now, I am uptight. Several minutes passed before the lady from the kitchen area came to our table. She said, “Would ya’ll want drinks or anything?” Seriously, would we want drinks or anything? I said, “Of course, we want drinks.” Yes, I had major attitude and my kids and husband feared I was about to embarrass them. “Well, what do ya’ll want?” Again, seriously?

The entire service experience was awful. I also noticed there were no books or movies as listed in the description. We paid $75 for below average food and shockingly bad service. As I sat there fuming, my husband began to read reviews on Yelp. The reviews were every bit as bad as the service we were experiencing. How could I have not read the reviews before choosing this place.

Two Lessons From My Experience

So, I have 2 lessons here. One, always read reviews on Yelp or a site you trust before choosing a restaurant you’re trying for the first time. Two, and this is really my point, be welcoming to customers.

Be Welcoming

First impressions set the tone for the customer’s experience. When you start out warm, friendly and welcoming, everything else will go very well, no matter what may happen later in the interaction. When your first impression is cold, defensive or in any way unwelcoming, everything will be perceived by your customer as negative, no matter how good things may truly be.

Starbucks employees are trained to “be welcoming” and that is why you are verbally greeted the moment you walk into a Starbucks store. QuickTrip, a super successful convenience store chain headquartered in Tulsa, greets every single customer upon entering the store. Every single customer gets a friendly and welcoming greeting when entering. Being welcoming means greeting customers immediately, putting a smile on your face, squarely facing customers and warmly welcoming customers into your place of business.

Being welcoming is not hard to do. It’s exactly what we all do when we open our front doors and welcome guests into our home. Be welcoming so that you get your customer experience off to the best possible start. Be welcoming so you don’t make your customers wish they hadn’t chosen you.

Now, I’m off to Yelp to post my review….

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My Starbucks Barista Is Fully Empowered and Your Employees Should Be Too

Hazelnut Macchiato

My daughter and I have this Starbucks thing. We go into Starbucks on Friday mornings before school to browse mugs and music and we both get a drink. This morning I ordered the Venti Caramel Macchiato with skim milk and no whip. The Barista asked, “Have you tried our new Hazelnut Macchiato? If you like the Caramel Macchiato, you’ll love the Hazelnut flavor!”

Just as we were walking into Starbucks, I was telling my daughter that I had a coupon for a free Tall Hazelnut Macchiato. But I left it in the car and besides, I wanted the very large Venti size today. So, I say to the Barista, “I actually have a coupon for free Tall Hazelnut Macchiato. Can I upgrade that to a Venti and pay the difference and then I’ll run out to my car and grab the coupon?” Get this, this completely empowered employee says, “I’ll tell you what. Don’t worry about the coupon and I’ll give you the Venti Hazelnut Macchiato for free.”

The Starbucks employee was completely willing and empowered to honor the coupon that I didn’t even present and he gave me a drink 2 sizes larger than the coupon would have granted. This is true empowerment and it’s part of what makes for a warm and delightful customer experience at Starbucks. (Contrast the Starbucks empowerment with my encounter with a completely un-empowered donut shop employee.)

Train, empower and trust your employees to make decisions on the spot. True empowerment makes for a faster, more delightful and wonderfully memorable customer experience. A lack of empowerment results in a slower and more frustrating customer experience and it actually lowers employee morale. The choice is yours. What will you do?

Need help training or empowering your customer service team? Consider our Customer Service Training.

We are best known for our classroom training – and it is amazing! Our customer service training is led by the industry’s best trainers…experienced, engaging, and energetic. If you poke your head into a Myra Golden training session, you know this training is different. Participant involvement is astonishing. People are having fun and they are completely engaged. Most importantly, the participants are learning real-world strategies that will absolutely empower them to deliver exceptional customer service. Every one of our customer service training sessions is custom designed to meet our client’s objectives and every session delivers a measurable return on investment.

Explore our customer service training now!

Starbucks Surprised & Delighted Me…Again

Starbucks on my Patio by Myra Golden
Starbucks on my Patio, a photo by Myra Golden on Flickr.

I went to Starbucks one afternoon last week. I ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte and the Roasted Tomato and Mozzarella Panini. Yes, it’s an odd combination, but I like the two. The friendly voice over the drive-thru speaker said, “I’m sorry. We’re out of the Roasted Tomato and Mozzarella Panini sandwich. I can give you any one of our breakfast sandwiches on us though.”

WOW. Without even a second of hesitation, the Starbucks employee made things right by not only offering a substitute sandwich, but by giving me that sandwich for free. This immediate offering ensured that I, the customer, didn’t have time to feel upset or disappointed. The fix was offered immediately and resulted in my surprise and delight.

Are your employees equipped to fix problems this quickly? When I’m designing a better customer experience for my clients, one of the things I insist on is empowerment of the front line. The front line has to be empowered with the solutions, dollar amount, and total freedom to take care of customer problems on the spot.

Empower your frontline to be able take care of problems on the spot. When you do, you’ll surprise and delight customers and you’ll keep customers from even thinking about going to the competition (or spreading negative word of mouth advertising, tweeting, blogging, etc.).

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Aubrey at Starbucks Impressed Me This Morning

Starbucks on my Patio by Myra Golden
Starbucks on my Patio, a photo by Myra Golden on Flickr.

I have two kids who keep me busy, and there is always something needing my attention with my business. So, I spend a lot of time in fast-food drive-thrus. I know. I can certainly find healthier options, but that’s another blog post. While in a drive-thru for fast food or a coffee shop, my radar is naturally up and I am always thinking about ways drive-thru employees and their companies can improve upon the customer experience.

This morning after dropping my son off at school, I went to Starbucks. I go all of the time, and the experience is always awe-inspiring. Here’s how my drive-thru experience went at Starbucks today.

“Good morning. Welcome to Starbucks. What can I get started for you?”
I could just picture the lady smiling as she greeted me.

I ordered a White Chocolate Mocha, nonfat, with whipped cream.

“I have a Venti White Chocolate Mocha, nonfat with whipped cream. Your total is $4.19.  Aubrey will see you at the window.”
It’s a beautiful touch to identify the person by name who will serve the customer at the window. I can’t recall this happening anywhere else I go.

Aubrey was really quite amazing. When I got to the window, she greeted me with a warm smile. She gave me my total, took my debit card and while waiting for my latte, she made small talk. “How’s your morning going so far?” she asked. While we talked, Aubrey faced me squarely, maintained eye contact and smiled genuinely. She was personable and confident. She’s the kind of person I’d love to have to work on my team. When my drink was ready, she read the label to confirm that I ordered a White Chocolate Mocha Latte. Aubrey ended the experience by telling me to enjoy the rest of my day.

Starbucks has mastered the warm customer experience. Creating a friendly experience for your customers makes you memorable, gets customers talking, and it facilitates relationship building with customers. What are 3 things you can do to make your customer experience warmer and friendlier? Right now, identify 3 things you can do…and then take the first step.

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How Starbucks WOWs in Routine Customer Service Interactions

(My Starbucks on 81st Street in Tulsa)

When I pulled up to the Starbucks drive-thru on 81st street in Tulsa last Thursday, I was greeted with the warm friendly persona that I’ve come to love. I ordered a Grande White Mocha Latte and a breakfast artisan sandwich. The lady taking my order wrapped things up by saying, “Thank you. Your total is $8.14, unless there’s something else.” I loved that! I loved it because it’s such a sharp contrast from fast food drive-thru ordering.

So often when I order a from a fast food drive-thru, I hear, “Your total is $5.49” before I’ve even had a chance to finish stating what I wish to order. Abruptly giving the total can make customers feel cut-off and employees can be perceived as rude.

Starbucks has mastered warm and friendly customer service. The warm experience is made up of dozens of small things in routine customer interactions. When it comes to closing a drive-thru conversation, warm and friendly at Starbucks is to keep it friendly and to avoid cutting the customer off.

When you’re wrapping up a customer interaction, be that in person or over the phone, be sure to keep it warm and friendly. Be careful not to make the customer feel cut off. When you keep it warm and friendly, you’ll surprise and delight customers and they’ll leave (or hang up) with a smile.

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Do yourself a favor and take 3 minutes and watch this insider-view into the StarBucks customer service culture. Then, I challenge you to identify 3 ideas you can adopt or adapt from the Starbucks experience and incorporate into YOUR organization. Enjoy!

Learn how to create a culture for WOWing your customers…check out our customer service onsite training and customer service elearning.

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