I’ve always heard that Midwesterners are supposedly the friendliest bunch of people in the United States. Today, I could see why.
Something happened on my way home that had a tremendous effect on my day, although it might have had this extraordinary effect simply because I was in a “mood” for most of the day, but nevertheless, it made me realize why I love Milwaukee and the Midwest in general.
I stopped at the Starbucks on the corner of Oklahoma and Kinnickinnic Avenues in Milwaukee because I was in desperate need of a caffeine injection. I must explain that I normally try to avoid Starbucks because I prefer to support smaller chains or local, independent coffee shops. Unfortunately though, my options were scanty, so I had to decide whether or not to continue searching for that indie hub and fall asleep at the wheel or stop at the Starbucks. Needless to say, my arm didn’t have to endure much twisting. In the end, it was a great decision since that particular Starbucks not only completely impressed me, but it brightened my day.
One of my biggest pet peeves is customer service, or lack thereof. If you work in the service industry, I expect you to treat me kindly and attentively; after all, that’s part of your job, isn’t it? With that being said, on the rare occasion that I venture inside a Starbucks, I always leave the coffee shop happy with my experience.
This satisfaction is probably due to the fact that there always seems to be a pleasant air to the place. Starbucks employees are always smiling and chatting enthusiastically while they put your order on the cup and syrup in it and as they take your money and make your change. While it’s never a really thrilling or even optimistic conversation, it’s always filled with sincere smiles. So, it’s no wonder why each patron walks away with a smile or at least a hint of one, a curled lip at the very least.
I pulled up to the drive-through and was glad to see that there was only one car ahead of me. After only about one minute, it was my turn to order. I was warmly greeted by a woman’s voice over the speaker. Her tone was so chipper that I could tell she was smiling on the other end. I cleared my throat and ordered one tall Americano and one grande green tea latte (for Eric). The woman repeated my order and told me the price, and then I inched forward. After a five minute wait, I finally pulled up to the window and was welcomed with the same smile I heard over the speaker. The rest of our exchange went as follows:
Starbucks Girl: “You had the tall Americano and grande green tea latte?”
Me: “Yep, that’s me.”
SBG: “We are really sorry about the wait.”
Me: “That’s okay.”
SBG: “Your drinks are on the house.”
SBG: “And we are going to give you this voucher for two drinks so that your coffees are on us next time too!”
Me: “Oh wow. That’s great! Thanks!”
SBG: “No problem, it’s the least we can do. Have a great night!”
I was only waiting for a mere five minutes, if that, and I got four complimentary drinks! In the past, I’ve waiting hours for dinner at a restaurant and never even received an apology and certainly never a free meal.
Even though the drive-through is a little less interactive – I didn’t really mind that today – you’re still treated with the same service. Such service is quite remarkable considering those people working at Starbucks probably have dealt with plenty of sleep deprived people all day, yet they never break a smile, never slow down, and never try to rush you out so that they can get to the next customer. Clearly, Starbucks has their customer service down pat, which begs the question: Is it actually possible to run a timely and efficient business AND be totally friendly at the same time? Apparently so.
Now, would this concept of a friendly, efficient service be lost in a bigger city like New York City or L.A. or is it every Starbucks’ policy and not solely a Midwest characteristic?
I’m almost positive that when I was visiting NYC and ordering a tall nonfat caramel macchiato each morning, I didn’t get a smile and I wasn’t asked about my day, I was more or less shoved out of the place. Granted, there are places in Milwaukee that don’t demonstrate the concept of good service, still I’m willing to wager that my experience at this particular Starbucks had a lot to do with its location and less about the coffee chain’s philosophy.
At any rate, I suppose I could use this situation as some exaggerated effort to call this an example that teaches a moral lesson about Milwaukee and how great it is, but I won’t. Instead, I’m simply going to enjoy my complimentary coffee...maybe even with a smile.