How Kind is Your Company?

If you’re an avid reader of Gini Dietrich’s Spin Sucks you will have read her fantastic story of the ultimate Starbucks customer experience. Those of us who regularly patronize Starbucks aren’t really surprised.  Just last week How Kind is your company?my daughter and I  drove through our old Starbucks and ordered our regular drinks; without even seeing us the drive through barista said “I know who this is! How’s Addie?”  Of course we felt special.

I have friends who still try to convince me I’m getting ripped off when I buy my $4 chai, but I know I’m not. The personalized, friendly customer service one receives at Starbucks is incredibly rare.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.   Social Media was supposed to make us more human… give us an opportunity to connect with our customers in a real way, uncluttered by traditional marketing speak.  It is supposed to allow for conversational exchanges between brands and buyers.  Sadly, most of us have forgotten that, and use it too much like a promotional machine… a digital billboard we aim at our targets.  We have forgotten how important being nice actually is.

What Starbucks knows is that kindness works.  People want to be treated as if they matter. Don’t believe me?  Try this: mail a handwritten Thank You to all of your customers from the past week.  I guarantee you will get a reaction. Why? Because companies have forgotten the human dimension.  Because we all want to be remembered.  Because in this age of automated bill pay and internet banking, the humanness has been sucked out of our lives.  Our customers crave it.  We ALL crave it.

Now go and look at your company practices:

  1. Who answers the phone and how do they do it? Have you ever instructed them on what you expect?
  2. What did the last 10 Facebook posts look like?  Was there any attempt to generate conversation?
  3. Is your Twitter stream just a broadcasting mechanism?  How many actual conversations have you had on there in the past month?
  4. Are you telling your company stories?  Is there a mechanism for your employees to hear them internally?
  5. Are you asking your customers for THEIR stories?  Are you giving them a voice?
  6. When was the last time you took an anonymous company poll to ask for employee input?
  7. How are you rewarding employees for excellent customer feedback?
Maybe Mitt was half right; maybe corporations are supposed to be people.  When was the last time you looked at your company practices seeking out evidence of kindness?  I know, it all sounds a bit mushy, but It Is REAL.  I believe it’s the single greatest ingredient in Starbucks’ incredible success.  If more companies made it part of how they do business, we’d have more success stories, and posts like Gini’s would be a lot less rare.


  • I submitted that blog post to Starbucks and they posted it to their partners’ Facebook group. Several of them stopped by and commented, while others shared it. They truly live the culture. It’s pretty freaking amazing.

    • AmyMccTobin

      And Gini, it’s so OBVIOUS that they live that culture. Anthony Iannarino asked me what my dream job was the other day and I told him it would have to be THERE IF it wasn’t working for myself.   I love that whole story of yours so much I’ve been thinking about it hard for my own small biz.

      • And it gets better. I had an email from Dan the Pastry Chef, formerly known as Barista and he said when he got to work at Trump last night, the blog post was taped to the kitchen door. 

        • AmyMccTobin

          OMG I LOVE that!!!!!!!!   See, you’re spreading sunshine all over the world:)  I feel like singing that old Coke commercial song:)

          • I want to give the world a coke and live in harmony. Great. Now I won’t be able to get that out of my head.

        • AmyMccTobin

          Pay it forward, or backward, or both directions I guess.

  • Amy, I don’t think it’s mushy at all. It’s a good life practice, and a good business practice. 

    • AmyMccTobin

      Why thank you Barrett. I’m not at all a mushy person but I know how people see this stuff sometimes.

  • John E.

    Great advice, Amy. The dehumanization of businesses doesn’t need to be a reality. We are in an era where retro has become stylish. Why not go a little retro with customer service too?

    • AmyMccTobin

      This Starbucks story of Gini’s has brought me back to my true passion in Sales and Marketing, which is the human side.  I am on an anti-auto rant right now, and nice gals DO finish first when they’re smart.

  • I would love to give out more handwritten notes, but most of my network exists on Twitter and social media. Hardly have an address, though I suppose I could always send it to the companies where they work. I want to do something nice for the holidays.

    I subscribe to a website called “letters of note” which shares written correspondence. You can see how communication has  changed since the age of personal computers.

    • Amy

      Then you track down their real addresses Susan – I’m telling you, it makes a huge difference.