Touching your customers in a contagious manner: The Starbucks way.


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On a cold Saturday morning, I popped into a Starbucks at Embankment London, to get a hot chocolate and a bottle of water. It was a massive queue and most customers looked grumpy and sleepy. The guy ahead of me in the queue, looked like he was starved of sleep and that made him have a tired and belaboured expression. The cashier or sales assistant made great efforts to cheer him up and she then asked him for his rewards card and enthusiastically said to him “happy coffee for life.” She made it sound like a big deal, like he had just won a one million dollar lottery. All that had happened was just adding points to his loyalty card. I went in there, looking dispirited and tired, but she touched this customer with her charm, energy and humour. All of a sudden his mood was brighter and that positively affected me and a few others on queue.

Three ways to touch a customer in a contagious manner:

A) By making a fountain out of a sprinkler: this just means making the experience a big deal. Like making a little reward to a customer seem like a massive lottery win. The Starbucks staff made having loyalty points on coffee like winning a Grammy award or receiving a professional reward as she enthused: “Happy coffee for life,” which sought of sounded like “New York times best seller.” Customer service and front line staff have to make the good loyalty rewards to a customer sound like massive personal achievements and recognition. This does brighten up that seemingly grumpy customer, who could be having a very bad day and was expecting the experience with your company make it worse. Making the experience a big deal is not hype but does transform your customers emotionally.

B) By making the joy emanate from the smile: this means smiling at a customer is not enough. Some smiles seem very fake and robotic. You can have someone looking sad and still put up a somewhat absurd smile. Your body language and facial expression needs to permeate joy and happiness. This Starbucks sales assistant was not just smiling, her body language was buzzing with excitement and her facial expression glittering in positive vibes. It looked like the job of selling coffee and making customers happy was her mission. She seized every second of interaction with each customer, to ensure she makes them cheer up at the barest minimum. Her joy was not just through a smile but her entire being was oozing in uncontrollable charm and excitement.

C) Make the intent genuine: customers can sense when you are just trying to be nice to lure them to purchase more products or services. This Starbucks employee seemed genuinely interested in making the customer brighten up- which she did achieve. It ended up with not just that customer, but she also succeeded in affecting other customers in the coffee shop positively.

It is all about touching the customer with the infectious positive energy that brightens up their entire day. The Starbucks employee touched so many customers, without physically touching them but emotionally leaving a positive impression. When you touch them in that way, they would rave about your brand.

Dateme Tamuno
Dateme Tamuno (Tubotamuno) is currently working as part of the SEO and PPC delivery team for UK based digital agency, Cariad Marketing. He has also completed a book on user-generated content marketing.


  1. I just love hearing these types of stories…it isn’t just good business sense…it’s a great way to live your life!

  2. Thanks for this article, Dateme. Anything that has been said about Starbucks’ way of doing customer service is most likely to be true. It has one of the best customer services around – if not a standard every business should emulate.

    You’re right about the rewards points in their much-vaunted Starbucks Card. I remember celebrating my birthday and they reminded me about claiming my free birthday cake that matched the cappuccino I ordered that afternoon. When I once accumulated enough points, the barista made a big deal about claiming my “free” coffee.

    It’s fun to see those Starbucks people enjoying themselves; their enthusiasm is infectious! It’s not irritating. In fact, their cheery attitude can change your mood and make you feel better. Still a good effort on their part, so kudos for them. Even inbound call centers can learn a thing or two about Starbucks. Their front-liners are proactive and happy. They are trained to deliver the best customer experience with their charm and energy.


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