If there’s one principle that Starbucks as a corporation has become famous for, it’s their tenet of giving the customer utter and complete service satisfaction. It’s what built their fortune. People had gotten tired of surly counterpeople at quick service restaurants, and Starbucks made up for its overpriced coffee by pampering and cossetting customers to an unusual degree, in surroundings that were genteel, warm, and relaxing.
Here in Manila, I’ve generally had a good experience with Starbucks. If you don’t like the way the barista made your drink, or if they made a mistake with your order, they’ll do it over. If you were inconvenienced in some way, you get a free beverage coupon. They hand you your drink with a smile, and if you happen to visit certain locations often, the baristas there make an effort to remember your name and call you by that next time you come in. Depending on the barista, they also remember your favorite drink and ask if you’ll be having “your usual”. (“Hi, Miss Jenny, going to work? Tall Raspberry Mocha for you today?”)
Some weeks ago, I was at the Yupangco branch waiting for my sister when I happened to fill out a customer satisfaction survey form. In it I deplored the lack of Christmas Bearista bears and Peppermint syrup, seasonal offerings we had gotten used to and looked forward to through the years.
I didn’t expect an answer. I suspect such survey forms are displayed only to make customers feel happy that their feedback is being solicited, and I’m not sure if the replies are fed into a CRM database. So I was surprised to receive an email from Rustan Coffee Corporation’s Operations Services Manager Carlo R. Lopez, thanking me for my feedback on the bears and the syrup (he mentioned it in detail, meaning they had actually read the form I filled out), and asking for my postal address so they could send me coupons.
Today the coupons arrived the mail. Not just the one I was expecting, but two.
Letter from Rustan Coffee with two free beverage coupons.
RCC is “an authorized licensee of Starbucks Coffee International”, it says right there on their stationery. RCC is also a “member of the Rustan group of companies”, which is well-known in the Philippines for their Rustan’s department store, which is the most upscale establishment of its kind in the country. They’ve taken their retail expertise and merged it with the Starbucks way to run their operations profitably. I haven’t heard that they are closing locations in the Philippines; in fact, they seem to be expanding, putting stores in newly-opened malls and beside 24/7 call centers.
Here’s another thing – the 2009 planner promotion was such a hit that they ran out of stock. The campaign started maybe five or six years ago, where customers are given a card every November that they fill up with stickers corresponding to a certain number of drinks. Half of the drinks required are the seasonal offerings like Peppermint, Toffee Nut, Dark Cherry, Praline, whatever. At the end of the promo period, the first week of January, there were no planners to be had. Customers were asked to wait until January 16.
The date rolled around. I went the next day – the 17th – with my promo card. I was told that there were no more planners to be had, again. In just 24 hours all the planners were snapped up! I was asked to leave my name with the branch nearest me – which is Rockwell. So I did, and I was given a free beverage coupon to make up for the inconvenience.
I used it the other day at Starbucks Rufino to get a Grande Ice-Shaken Raspberry Mocha. I handed the cashier my coupon. She asked, in a low voice, ”Planner”? I nodded. My order was rung up as a “service recovery”. The machine spit out my receipt. The cashier handed it to me with a smile and pointed out some text at the bottom. “You have another free drink with the “Customer Voice” promo. Just go online to get the code.” The baristas chattered excitedly. A free drink with another free drink? That was rare!
To cap it all, yesterday I got this text message: ”Thank you for making this year’s planner promotion a success. Due to the overwhelming response, we have unexpectedly experienced a shortage of planners. We have placed another order to arrive by March 20. We apologize for the delay & as a token of our appreciation & your understanding we will be including a Starbucks bag with your reserved planner. We sincerely apologize & thank you for your continued patronage and understanding. – strbks r0ckwell”
To sum up, I’ve received coupons for four free drinks, and will be given another freebie, the bag.
Is Starbucks great, or what? This is why I love this place. Not so much for the coffee, which is more milk than espresso anyhow, and frankly I’ve had better. But I keep coming back to Starbucks as a loyal customer for the experience, the ambiance, and the service which is second to none.
Fountain pens, ink, and coffee at Starbucks Rockwell.