Mike is 25 years old. He was born and raised in a small city in The Netherlands called Groningen, where he still lives. Groningen is a beautiful old city of approximately 200.000 inhabitants in the north of the country. Also is one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world, with about 60% of traffic movements being done by bike. Often called a “university city”, it houses both the University of Groningen (30.000 students) and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences (25.000 students). With a student population of 25%, the highest in the country, it is very common to see young people working part-time at all kind of businesses, especially shops, restaurants and cafés. This allows them to study, pay the rent and have some money to spend enjoying the exciting nightlife of Groningen.
Mike works at Starbucks, at the train station, and It’s been 9 years already for him working there.
Mike started very young, at the age of 16, working part-time washing dishes at the old restaurant at the station. After one and a half year, that restaurant was acquired by the Dutch coffee company Douwe Egberts, which converted the place into a nice café bar. That was Mike’s first contact with coffee and customers. He learnt how to make good coffee and went from behind the bar to the front line, where he started interacting with customers. Mike liked the job from the start.
After finishing his studies of commercial assistant around 2011, he became a full-time employee. Two years later, Douwe Egberts went bankrupt and that coffee bar was taken over by Starbucks where he continued his career.
After one year working at Starbucks, Mike gets an offer to be a Shift Supervisor. Today it’s been five years working as Supervisor and he still has the same positive attitude welcoming customers every day as he had seven and a half years ago.
My experience as a customer
I started working for a software company with the HQ in Groningen at the beginning of this year. Now that we are approaching the end of 2016, it’s been almost a year for me going to Groningen every week by train, where I stayed for a couple of days. Usually, I get there one day and leave the day after. The rest of the week, I work remotely.
Getting a coffee before leaving from Groningen on my way back home became like a ritual for me. Starbucks cappuccino in the late afternoon is always a good idea to take with you in a 2 hour and 40 minutes’ train ride.
I am not reinventing the wheel if I say that most employees at any Starbucks are nice and gentle when you get there. That comes with Starbucks company culture doing things like asking for your name, etc. At Groningen station that’s no different. Always went there, always was treated well and fast and left with my coffee to get on the train. All good.
There was one day when I was about to order my cappuccino to a girl working there, when the guy next to her at the coffee machine looks at me and asks “Tall cappuccino?” with a smile. I said “Yes”, and by the time I paid, I had my coffee ready at the counter.
That guy was Mike and he repeated the same operation a couple of times after that day.
One day, I even didn’t have to order. Mike saw me waiting in the queue and when it was my turn, he came with my coffee already, so I just had to pay and leave to catch my train.
That was a great Customer Experience! As a customer, I felt good about Mike knowing me and remembering what kind of coffee I like. It was great that I didn’t have to order and then wait for a couple of more minutes, especially when you have a train to catch, this makes your experience much more relaxing and enjoyable. But that wasn’t all, Mike went the extra mile.
A great customer experience
I have a folding bike that I always bring with me to Groningen. There are two ways to get in at Starbucks at the station. There is an entrance from the inside of the station and another one facing the street. Sometimes, I cycle directly to the street door, fold my bike in front of it and get in.
One day, after opening the door, Mike was there and he said “And here he is!” out loud to his colleague with a big smile on his face. At the same time, he put my coffee on the counter ready for me to take away. That was a Wow Experience for me. The guy saw me through the window coming by bike and started already making my coffee so when I got in, it was ready and I even didn’t have to order, just pay and go.
Now, I just don’t order one coffee on my way back home but also, when I get there in the first place.
I am sure I am not the only one who goes there regularly and orders the same kind of coffee. Mike probably operates the same way with other customers. Having someone like him in your business, interacting with your customers and delivering extraordinary experiences like that is extremely valuable.
After 9 years working at the station, 5 of them as a supervisor at Starbucks, Mike doesn’t know what to do next. He doesn’t know if he wants to do the same for the rest of his life or not; or what to do next. I am sure of something, with his proactivity, positive attitude and special touch for dealing with customers, he will be able to achieve whatever he wants because people like him always succeed. Companies know they add a high value to their business, and anyone would be lucky to have him in their team. Hope at Starbucks someone realise of that (if they didn’t yet) and offers him the possibility to keep growing within the company.
The opposite experience
On the less positive side, I would like to share another experience for you to see the difference. Every week, I spend a night or to at the same hotel in Groningen for the last four or five months. That’s a lot of nights at the same place. People at reception are nice and friendly. I get there, say my name, maybe have a short chat sometimes, get the key and go to my room. All good, smiles, good attitude, good experience.
But they don’t remember me. At least most of them, most of the times. There are 4 receptionists in total working there. Most of the times, I am welcomed by two of them, one or the other. Sometimes they ask me if I was there before, which I am surprised about as they don’t seem to have a system that tells them when they are in front of a frequent and loyal customer. Sometimes, they start explaining where the lift, the gym, and the restaurant is. Very nice of them, but I heard it many times and kind of know already.
My experience is good, but to be honest, I am always a bit disappointed when they don’t remember me or have a good gesture because I am a loyal customer. What different would be if when I get there, they would say something like:
“Hi Mr. Gonzalez, very nice seeing you here again. We were expecting you today, so we left something special in your room for your stay tonight. If you need anything from us, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
(The something especial could be as simple as a chocolate bar, a typical Dutch cookie or whatever they don’t normally give to guests). I had this experiences at other hotels.
A little difference but can convert a good customer experience into a great one. A neutral customer to a promoter, who will tell the story to his friends, family, colleagues. Who will post the picture of the cookie on Facebook visible to his 300 friends, naming the hotel and showing its exact location at the same time. To everyone.
Maybe they could start going to Starbucks at the train station to learn how a 25-year-old guy called Mike, delivers excellent customer experiences.
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