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Creating a Customer-Service Business

(June 2006) posted on Mon Jul 17, 2006

Learn how borrowing some customer-service philosophies from Starbucks can set your shop apart from the competition.

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By Gordon Roberts

Any clear-thinking businessperson knows that this is a potential route to financial disaster. The growing list of screen-printing shops that don't make it through their first five years certainly bears testament to the results of this shortsighted approach. Perhaps it's time for us to sit back and take a closer look at our customers and figure out a better way to supply them with much more than just an empty bargain.

Let's look at a scenario in another service industry. When I first came to the US almost 30 years ago, there were coffee shops everywhere with cute waitresses who called the customers "hon." The waitresses were delighted to get you a danish, a cup of joe, and perhaps a slice of mom's apple pie. As the years went by, our lives sped up and it became possible to go through a drive-through or drop into the local 7-11 and pick up the same cup of coffee for just a few cents. Slowly but surely, the coffee shop became a thing of the past. If you had told me in the 1980s that I would happily pay a couple bucks for coffee when I could get it for less than half as much at my local convenience store, I would have said that you were crazy.

Along came Starbucks

Here's what Starbucks did. They produced a very nice cup of coffee. They served it to us in a clean and welcoming environment with courteous, well-trained employees who smiled and honestly cared about Starbucks' products and its customers. They educated us about coffee, accustomed our palettes to the rich taste of their perfectly brewed creations, and tempted us with ever more expensive and delicious treats. The coffee that we had previously been drinking now tasted bland and boring. Lo and behold, now here we are gladly paying several dollars a day for a product that is available elsewhere at considerably lower prices.


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