Tuesday April 1, 2014

Micro Disappointments and Starbucks

I've had a couple experiences in the last few weeks that reflect an important, but subtle difference between the experience Starbucks offers, and that of a local coffee shop I've always frequented. I'll start with the local shop: 

Typical morning routine (7am)- I have my REI travel mug loaded with grass-fed butter and MCT oil- ready to mix up my Bulletproof coffee concoction. I'm en route to the office and need to make a quick stop to fill up with some black. 

I walk in, look up to their board to see what kind of single origin they have this week (NW coffee snob) and it reads Brazil. Sounds delicious. (I have no idea, but it has to be more interesting than the HOUSE blend, right?)

So I remove the cap to my mug, slide it across the counter and ask, "Brazil, please". Then reach for my wallet to grab my card.

The girl at the counter hesitates, and calls back to the other girl working on something else, "Do we have the Brazil ready yet?" "No, still brewing," the other girl replied.

She turns to me and says, "Sorry, is HOUSE okay?"  

I say "sure", she swipes my card for the usual $1.70, and I wait as she fills my mug. Then I leave. 

So what's the big deal? 

The fact of the matter is- I might never have blogged about that experience, or even complained to my friends or tweeted about it to my followers. But as I walked out to my car, something occured to me. I was just disappointed. More subtle than that. Let's call it a micro-disappointment. Here's what I mean:

I went in, saw something I wanted that the business indicated they had available. Something I wanted more than the other thing. I had positive anticipation. Then I'm informed they don't actually have that thing available, and my only option really, is to take the other thing. They still charge me the same price though.

I just had a micro-disappointment. Of course one of those every once in a while isn't going to make me get coffee somewhere else, but what is the cumulative effect.

K, more on that later. Interestingly though, I had exactly the same situation come up at Starbucks yesterday, but with a different outcome:


I walk in to Starbucks, find a seat in front of the window, set my bag down, and then head over to get in line. When it's my turn, I order, "I'll just have a small decaf in a mug please." She replied, "We are actually right in the middle of brewing that. Would you prefer to wait til it's done brewing, or would you like a decaf Americano right away?" 

I think about it for a sec, forgetting you can actually get a decaf espresso drink, and then replied, "the Americano is fine." It didn't even occur to me that of course, the espresso drink would be more expensive than the brewed coffee.

As she takes my card for payment, she says, "I'm just going to charge you the same as the brewed coffee since we didn't have it ready. Have an excellent day."


Well done Starbucks. It's subtle, but I went to my seat after the exchange noticing what had just happened. I experienced a micro-delight. 

I believe for brands, these micro-impressions, are the key to converting passive customers into advocates. That also means that micro-disappointments have a cumulative effect of passifying otherwise evangelical promoters. 

Generally speaking, brands spend a lot of time strategizing around bottom-line results like acquisition and defection, and very little time on the micro-moments that drive them. 

Here's three places to look for disappointment triggers: 
  • Incongruency
    • Do your sales people or field reps have any outdated materials, price sheets, spec sheets, feature lists? Are your product photos up to date? 
    • Does your website accurately reflect your current pricing, hours of service, response time, current inventory, etc? 
    • For restaurants/food services- are your menu's up to date?
  • Hard edges- Do you have rules/policies that prevent your frontline staff from making reasonable accomodations? (" We always...", "We never...")
  • Interaction logging
    • Are customer conversations, complaints, questions systematically captured? 
    • Is staff trained how to review and appropriately reference customer logs when the customer calls back or they make a followup call?

Chris Nordyke is an integrated marketer and strategy consultant. He works with owners and senior business leaders to transform and grow service companies via a unique holistic approach that drives referral business and client retention. Click here to schedule a complimentary consult with Chris.

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