Grumpy Cinnamon Roll Guy

12 Dec Grumpy Cinnamon Roll Guy

A regular customer went into the local Starbucks and wanted a cinnamon roll. He was in luck–there was one left. The guy made a point of starting his day at Starbucks with a coffee and cinnamon roll.

Charlie was carrying the hallowed last cinnamon roll to the register when it fell on the floor. “Uh oh, I’m toast,” Charlie said to himself.

Charlie confessed to the customer, “I’m so sorry. I can’t believe it, but I dropped your cinnamon roll. Can I get you an apple fritter or donut instead?”

The customer was not happy and vented his frustration on Lori at the register. “Why don’t you get more cinnamon rolls?” asked the guy. “You are constantly running out of them. You guys used to get what your customers really wanted. I think Starbucks is just getting too corporate.” Lori had no explanation.

“I guess I’ll just have to go to another Starbucks and see if they can help me.”

Grumpy Cinnamon Roll Guy came in a few days later for his coffee and cinnamon roll. Lori waited on him again and was able to give him a cinnamon roll that hadn’t hit the floor. Because Starbucks creates a climate of providing excellent customer service, Lori apologized again for the previous problem and asked him his name, which was Paul.

The next time Lori worked she had a hunch Paul would be in so she set aside a cinnamon roll in a little box and wrote Paul’s name on it and drew a little smiley face.

Sure enough, Paul did come in. He ordered his usual and by the time he got to the register his personalized cinnamon roll was waiting for him. Lori was working at the coffee bar and watched for his response. He looked down in surprise at the box, saw Lori across the store, and broke into a shy grin. He was no longer Grumpy Cinnamon Roll Guy.

Do we cater to people who are grumpy and demanding by giving them what they want? Not always. Do we put a little thought into how we can serve our customers better? Absolutely.

Here are four things that kept Lori and Charlie from losing their customer forever:

  1. They apologized: Rather than make excuses or point the finger at corporate, Lori immediately took responsibility and empathized with her customer.
  2. They respond with anger: Lori and Charlie didn’t get upset or annoyed at the customer’s overreaction or minimize his frustration. Some customers want what they want when they want it and small business owners have to respond to the trend of increasingly demanding customers.
  3. They offered a  substitute: Although the client wasn’t interested, Lori intelligently offered Paul a substitute since no cinnamon rolls were available. Savvy organizations serve their customers well and recognize the need or desire beneath the product or service the customer is seeking. Understanding the customer experience allows vendors to offer an acceptable substitute and still retain revenue they would have otherwise lost.
  4. They anticipated the customer’s need: Lori recognized Paul was a regular and knew he might come to Starbucks that morning. If he didn’t show up, then Lori could return the cinnamon roll to the pastry case and no harm was done. But Lori’s show of customer care scored big with Paul when he did come.

The lesson for small businesses is that going the extra mile to empathize with your customer and brighten their day will make them feel special and translate to success for your organization. It takes creativity, consistency and skill to get match Starbucks’ level of customer service, but small business owners have opportunities every day to grow in that direction.

It’s easy to take a few minutes to set aside a $2 cinnamon roll. It’s a lot harder to be gracious with a $10,000 project that has gone awry. But in the long run, customer service is about learning how to best empathize with customer needs for the entire customer experience.

Despite his initial frustration, Paul continues to come back. And he gets other things besides cinnamon rolls now. Maybe he was less concerned about the cinnamon roll than feeling heard and appreciated.

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