A Tale of Great Service and Broken Starbucks Coffee Grinders

I believe the ultimate form of marketing is good customer service and I find myself praising Starbucks for how they are handling their coffee grinder recall. You probably don’t care too much about their recall, unless you own one of the offending units.

I do.

The Villan!

The Villain!

We got the unit several years ago and about a year or so ago, it started acting strangely. Upon putting the plug into the socket, the blades would start to spin immediately, whether or not the top was on the unit. That can be a problem as the blades are extremely sharp and if it can chop coffee beans to Kingdom Come, imagine what it can do with one’s fingers. Of course, there’s also the extra problem that usually, when one is preparing coffee, he is not quite awake, so the risk of inserting finger A into coffee grinder B is amplified. However, a clearer head and prudence prevailed and we learned to adapt by making sure the lid was closed prior to inserting the plug. (Made for an interesting pattern of ground coffee sprayed around the kitchen before we learned that lesson.) And, over time, the unit began working correctly; so we assumed the button on the bottom of the lid had simply become stuck for awhile and had now returned to its corrected state.

However, a few months ago, the problem repeated itself; and this time — no matter what we tried — it would not stop. And so it remains to this day.

Does anybody really pay attention to those TV news crawlers?

I guess so because as I was getting my dose of daily news, along the bottom of the CNN screen, I saw that Starbucks coffee grinders were being recalled.

I went to the website and there was a special link if you had one of the grinders, made from 2002-present. It said to call the company if you had one.

Expecting the worst, I picked up the phone and dialed the number.

Voice on other end: Hello, this is Mike from Starbucks. What can I do for you?

Me: Oh! Excuse me! I thought I’d get one of those endless voice mail trees.

Mike: Nope, just me. Sorry to disappoint (laughs). What can I do for you?

Me: I’ve got one of those coffee grinders and it’s doing exactly what they say it’s not supposed to do on your website. I thought it was just getting old but I guess it’s got a problem.

Mike: OK, we’ll take it back and send you a new one.

Me: Does it matter how long I’ve had it?

Mike: No.

Me: I don’t have a receipt.

Mike: No problem. Can you tell me what color it is?

Me: It’s the silver one.

Mike: OK, the only problem is the replacement ones are black. Will that be a problem for you?

Me: I don’t care. I think I prefer black. What do I do?

Mike: We’ll send you a postage paid UPS label. You put the unit in a box, seal it up, slap on the label and drop it off at a UPS location. Once we get it, we’ll send you a new one.

Me: That’s it? How long does it take?

Mike: It’ll take about eight weeks.

Me: Oh, so I’m without coffee until then unless I grind it before I bring it home.

Mike: Yeah, that’s the only downside. However, if you bring your coffee into a Starbucks store, we’ll grind it for you. All I need is your contact information.

Me: Can you email me the label?

Mike: Sure.

And do he did.

Let’s recap shall we?

What I liked so much about this transaction is that it lacked all the usual B.S. one has to deal with to get something done in our screw-the-customer environment.

  1. An actual person picked up the phone! How rare is that, especially with a company the size of Starbucks. I mean, for God’s sake, I don’t even always pick up my phone and there’s only one of me!
  2. There was no attempt to prove me wrong. From the beginning of the call, although I was ready to go to battle for my “rights,” I was treated with respect. I was believed. I was supported.
  3. They made it easy for me to receive my product. There weren’t any long forms I had to complete. I did not have to provide receipts.
  4. He delivered. The email showed up the next day telling me that UPS would send me an electronic label within 48 hours. The only down side was that it took a week for the label to actually arrive, but I’m assuming that’s UPS’s doing or it’s due to the number of units being processed. (Besides, I didn’t have the time to to deal with until now anyway.)

Bottom line

The Number #1 Rule of marketing is “People don’t buy what they need, they buy what they want.”

I want to be treated well. I’ll pay a premium for it. I’ll be loyal to you because of it. I’ll sing your praises to everyone when you treat me correctly.

Starbucks did it right. I’ll be back.

Today's Winner of Great Service Award!

Today's Winner of Great Service Award!


~ by scottqmarcus on June 29, 2009.

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