Customer Experience

Lessons in Customer Service From Starbucks’ $7 Cup of Coffee

For some, the morning trek down to the local Starbucks is a daily pilgrimage. For others, a $5 latte sums up everything wrong with capitalism these days.

Regardless of which group you fall into, Starbucks likely succeeded in polarizing you even further last week when they introduced a new $7 cup of coffee. No really, I’m serious. The stuff is about as expensive as what you’ll spend on your entire lunch today.

Although the new brew is a limited run for a select few west coast stores, Starbucks has been generating a lot of buzz with the new coffee. It’s pretty clear their marketing department knows exactly what they’re doing. As I’ve written before, scarcity and exclusivity are almost irresistible pulls on our psyche, and this new “Geisha” coffee has both.

Although coffee experts agree that the rare brew’s taste is unique and complex, the new starbucks brew has received underwhelming reviews, and not just from Jimmy Kimmel’s blind taste test bit last week. However, it might be no fault of the coffee itself, but of the Starbucks infrastructure.

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The coffee giant’s production process is likely not designed for the attention and care required to roast smaller batches of beans. The company may lack the capacity to prepare the beans correctly and their supply chain may be too long to deliver the beans fast enough to keep them fresh. In short, Starbucks may be selling an exceptional product, but that product is nothing without great support.

An exceptional product is nothing without great support.

This is true for companies in any industry, from coffee to technology. Here are a few ways companies can learn from Starbucks’ mistake and design their service and support to deliver the best possible product every time.


Just as coffee beans need to be carefully roasted and prepared before they can be shipped, customers need to be set up and trained on your product. Rushing this step in either case will only deliver a sub-par product experience.

Your great product will do your customers no good if they are not prepared to use it correctly. If your product is complex, you should be providing setup and training to every new client and you might consider continued education through webinars or refresher courses.


In the case of coffee, spending too much time in the supply chain leads to loss of quality and flavor. The same goes for your customer support. The longer a customer is forced to wait in your support queue, the more patience they will lose and the less forgiving they will be of any issues you may have.

Do your best to address every support case early. Even if their problem is not a quick fix, let them know that you are at least working on it. Knowing that their problem is at least on your radar does wonders to calm anxious clients.


The most important quality in your service and support is follow-through. Your support should be delivering on what your salesmen are promising. In the case of Starbucks, they are promising an exceptional cup of coffee, and anything less than dazzling could ruin a customer’s experience with their brand.

Make sure all parts of your organization are on the same page when it comes to your products capabilities. It is always better to underpromise and overdeliver than to fall short of your sales pitch. Follow-through helps to build customer trust and loyalty, giving your company an immense amount of credibility.

Whether you are peddling America’s most expensive cup of coffee or a B2B product or service, that product is nothing without great service. Have you tried the new Starbucks brew? Do you have some additional thoughts on customer service? Let us know!

  Discuss This Article

Comments: 3

  • Excellent points made regarding the importance of providing great service. From personal experience I know that if I have a problem, I want the problem to be acknowledged. Just getting acknowledged goes a long way towards feeling satisfied with the ultimate solution. Thanks for a great post.

  • Interesting article, thanks. To see the American side of this has been insighful as I’m English. Starbucks are in real trouble over here over recently revealed tax issues. There have been boycots and other things and they’re going to have to work very hard to get their public image right again. The damage is already done, in my opinion. I’m in the anti-capitalism camp and I don’t care for the firm one bit.

  • Very interesting! This emphasizes how important customer service really is, especially when you are selling a $7 cup of coffee. I definitely think it is important to follow-through with your customers and make sure they are getting what they want/need. Satisfied customers turn into loyal customers. For more information on how to improve customer service, visit us at

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