Remember and Amaze: Colossal and Affirming Lessons from a Starbucks Barista

In my books, The Starbucks Experience and Leading the Starbucks Way, I’ve shared many lessons from frontline team members (referred to as partners at Starbucks). While leadership approaches to customer experience are critical, I’ve found that some of the most powerful insights on creating customer loyalty come from those in the trenches with customers daily.

For this post, let’s look at some valuable lessons learned from a Starbucks barista, Joy Wilson.

Listen for and Use Your Customer’s Name – As Dale Carnegie noted in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, a person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Applying Mr. Carnegie’s wisdom, Joy reported, “I’m the drive-thru queen at my store. I always set out to do the best job I possibly can. One of the ways I do that is to listen carefully for each person’s name and, if they have a dog in their car, to ask for their dog’s name. I say those names back to them to ensure I heard them correctly and naturally use their names during our time together.”

Remembering Names When Possible – Using a name during an interaction is a way to personalize service, but Joy takes a customer’s name to the next level, “Given how many people I serve, I can’t do this all the time, but for our regulars, I make it a point to commit their name to memory – so I can call them by name as soon as I see them. I work on this and even created spreadsheets to help me keep things straight.”

Taking an Interest Beyond a Name – Besides remembering customers’ names, Joy reported, “Even though time is of the essence in our business, I ask quick questions of my regulars that reflect my authentic interest.” According to Joy, she might learn that someone is going on vacation, and the next time she sees them, she will ask about their trip. Joy adds, “we all want people to see, acknowledge and care about us – even in expedited service moments.”

See Each Interaction as an Opportunity – In keeping with Starbucks’ desired customer experience, Joy frames every interaction as an opportunity to create an “uplifting or inspiring moment in each person’s day.” She challenges herself to find a way to “make every drive-through visit more than a transaction. That can mean sharing a smile that communicates that I am happy to see them or letting them know I am eager to have them come back through my drive-through again soon.”

While your service interactions are likely different than Joy’s, the principles that drive her behavior have broad application and prompt the following self-reflection.

  1. How carefully do you listen when people share their names?
  2. How consistently do you repeat the other person’s name to ensure you heard them correctly and help you remember it?
  3. How regularly and naturally, do you use the other person’s name during a service transaction?
  4. How committed are you to learning about your customer’s family, interests, and recreational pursuits?
  5. How well do you remember what you learn about your customers?
  6. How do you ensure each interaction is an opportunity to make a meaningful connection with a customer?

As you consider Joy’s approach to customer service, think about how it feels when you are served by someone you didn’t think would remember you or your name.

Alternatively, if you are old enough to remember the television sit-com

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think about the key message of the show’s theme song reflected in this excerpt:

Be glad there’s one place in the world, where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. You want to go where people know people are all the same. You want to go where everybody knows your name.

To learn more about ways to create memorable connections with customers, please get in touch with me at

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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