During a recent business trip to New York City, I found myself looking for a Starbucks on a surprisingly peaceful Saturday morning. Of course, I had my choice of four Starbucks within a two-block radius. I chose one at random and found a few patrons there enjoying a quiet morning.

I’m not very familiar with the breakfast options at Starbucks but, this day, I decided to try one. As I was perusing the display case, the person in line behind me said rather helpfully, “I would be happy to describe the breakfast offerings if you like. I work for Starbucks.” He kindly described the options with remarkable precision. Before long, I was enjoying a light breakfast and coffee.

Then I noticed the same helpful gentleman was seated across the room enjoying a coffee, but he was also keenly observing the store. He took a moment to tidy up the “cream and sugar” station and arrange a few chairs, and very nicely asked the employee behind the counter to attend to a few things. A few moments later he came over and introduced himself to me. “Thank you for choosing Starbucks this morning. I hope you are enjoying everything. By the way, I’m Cliff Burrows, Group President of Starbucks. Nice meeting you.”

Looking back on this brief encounter, I realized that Cliff (I can call him that now, can’t I?) had just given a demonstration on customer relations, leadership, and management style all at once. Despite his very senior role at Starbucks, he was current on front-line details, and he was genuine: 

  • He was focused on a result: a good customer experience
  • He knew product specifics and he used brand language: “Hearty,” “Light,” “Savory”
  • He led by example

In short, he was hands-on in a positive way. How many of us are that well prepared, especially with subtle but important details? I know I have some work to do in that department.

No matter what business you’re in, results are vitally important, especially when customers are at stake.