How Starbucks Trained Us All To Use Its Lingo, And Why It Improved Customer Service

While some people balk at having to ask for a “tall” or a “venti” when they go to Starbucks, most people have learned that the fastest way to satisfy their caffeine cravings is to use the company’s particular lingo and keep the line moving. This, says one leadership expert, is not a coincidence.

“Starbucks had a problem when it first got started in that customers were coming up and using their own vocabulary and taking their own time to order a drink,” says Anne Morriss, author of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business, in an interview with the Harvard Business Review. “Very quickly, this process was eroding the service experience because the lines were getting longer.”

So rather than train its employees into how to deal with customers using all sorts of vague terms for sizes and types of coffee drinks, Starbucks realized it was easier to train customers to use a single system of ordering.

“We all have been very well trained, it turns out,” says Morriss. “When we show up in line, if we order it incorrectly, then the correct version is shouted out for the whole store to hear… Really what’s motivating is that we don’t like to be corrected in public.”

In the end, that desire to not be corrected by the people making your coffee resulted in a net positive for both Starbucks and its customers. “It turns out that it had an enormous impact on the efficiency of the line and the quality of the service experience,” explains Morriss.

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