Loyalty is what you make of it
I’ve never been the biggest coffee drinker. Through my uni years I’d practically avoid the stuff, opting to either sleep or go for a walk when I was feeling tired – after all, I was a student and very few things in my life were that urgent. Moving forward to my years as a freelancer, I opted for gut-rotting energy drinks as my caffeinated poison. Their florescent colour tarring my insides with energy. Now though, I get a coffee – pretty much every day; and Starbucks is my watering hole of choice.
Why Starbucks though? I work close to many other places that offer coffee, many of whom are independent cafés, playing Pitchfork‘s top 10 albums while beardy baristas serve up the latest bean from Ecuador. But I still choose to head to Starbucks, picking up a Mocha or Cappuccino as I please.
Here’s the thing: I don’t actually have the Starbucks app on my phone, or a loyalty card for that matter. In fact, I can’t actually be bothered to get one and set it up. Sure I’m missing out on some free cups of coffee, and the free book/song/app they give away doesn’t apply to me as I’m an avid Android user, and they only seem to support iOS. But none of that matters. The rewards aren’t the reason for why I head to Starbucks. Heck, the coffee isn’t even the reason I head there – despite the fact I do actually prefer it over many others. I head to Starbucks for the experience and the customer service.
Taking a glance at the byline will show you that my name isn’t all that common. So, when Starbucks staff ask for it to help label and ‘personalise’ the experience, I find that it usually gets lost in translation. In Germany I was known as Whol, I’ve been called Paul, Sean (?), Vorn, Baughn, and many others. But none of that really bothers me.
What I like about Starbucks is it’s unfaltering consistency. I know that I can go into any Starbucks in the world and get the exact coffee I want and I’ll always be greeted by someone warm and friendly, even when they’re unfathomably busy. They aren’t asking about how my day has gone, nor are they indulging me in any form of conversation, but they genuinely seem like they want to help, while also wanting to give my my coffee as quickly as possible so they can serve the next customer. However, the process doesn’t feel rushed in the slightest. In fact, it feels exactly as it should, you order, pay, wait, collect, and leave. Perfect.
And while the waiting period could be arduous, especially if the shop is at its busiest, watching the interaction and the atmosphere around the place makes up for it. Some customers may well be in a hurry, but few seem to be fretting. New customers arrive and the barista greets them as if they’re old friends. It’s never an unpleasant experience, even in the centre of London.
Starbucks tends to get bad press, largely due to it’s monolithic size. But the likes of Café Nero and Costa Coffee tend to be worse in terms of customer experience. I can genuinely say that I’ve never left either of those establishments feeling rewarded.
Yet, every time I step out of a Starbucks I do. And I don’t even have a loyalty card.