Keeping Your Cool When Things Heat Up


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This isn’t the first time I have prefaced a bad customer service experience by saying something nice about a company but I’m at it again. I love Starbucks. I would name a child after them if that was the cool thing to do but I’ll leave that sort of thing to the people in Hollywood. In general, I have nothing but good experiences with their customer service.

I was at a Starbucks in a town up in the California mountains this weekend and when I walked in there was a pretty good line with all four people behind the counter doing work and no one at the cash register. I watched one flabbergasted exchange between two employees but couldn’t hear what was said. One of them then frantically handed a larger bagel order to a customer and then returned back to the register. Clearly, this store was understaffed as indicated but the growing line of people behind me.

As I stood in line it seemed that no request was simple. Each customer took a little while to assist whether it was waiting longer for payment to go through or checking to see if they had more of something in the back. As I was just about to be waited on I watched a barista stroll in and give some sort of apology indicating that he was probably late for work. Perhaps he missed his alarm or had a flat tire.

I was finally able to place my order. Hot orange, blossom tea…no problem. Hot tea is one of the easiest things to make on the menu. Then I asked for the Spinach and Feta wrap. The lady that took my order wrote that on my treat bag and put the bag over on the oven and moved on to helping other people.

After 1 minute, my bag was still just sitting there. 2 minutes…still there. 3. 4.

Normally at Starbucks, the baristas are chatty and seem busy but generally have good chemistry behind the counter. This team was quiet and seemed more like they were dodging each other as they moved about.

5 minutes. 6…

I finally asked the guy that was late if they had started my spinach wrap knowing that my bag was still sitting on the oven and no one had started it. Without saying anything to me, he walked over to the oven, grabbed my bag and then put the wrap in the oven. I waited a couple more minutes and another employee brought me my wrap. No apology, no real communication of any sort. Certainly no ownership. I’m not really sure there were any major consequences here. Just a sort of mildly inconvenienced customer who still enjoyed his wrap albeit a little bit late.

So what are the takeaways here? Actually, I think there are quite a few here but I want to focus on one simple question. How do you communicate better when someone turns up the heat? In this case, an employee let his team down by being late. Let’s face it. This happens all the time in the work place. In these caes, it’s often best to start by taking a deep breath and determine to maintain a winning attitude. The fact of the matter is, customers are still going to call so you can either close the store or determine you will take ownership of each situation and offer fantastic customer service. It’s amazing how much was communicated in this case while very little was actually said to me, the customer. Communicate better my friends!

Jeremy Watkin
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Support and CX at NumberBarn. He has more than 20 years of experience as a contact center professional leading highly engaged customer service teams. Jeremy is frequently recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working he's spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.


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