12th August 2008

WOM @ my local Starbucks…

One of those fundamentals in WOM is creating stories that inspire people to talk.  Often times this comes down to doing the unexpected - which is generally unexpected because the “front lines” just aren’t empowered to do much beyond execute on their function. 

Today, I’m grabbing some laptop time in a local Starbucks and took a table very near where the baristas are working - only table available near an outlet of course:)

As I’m setting up I hear, and then watch, the following transaction.  A guy orders and pays for a grande iced latte.  When the latte is called out at the bar, he takes it and I hear the following:

Guy:  “Is this a grande?  I thought they were bigger than that.” 

Barista:  “Yes, that’s the grande, the venti is the even larger one.” 

Guy:  “Oh, ok.” - no frustration, just simple acknowledgement.

Barista:  “Would you like me to make that a venti?”

Guy:  “Ummm…you can do that?”  (he almost looked guilty, like he shouldn’t say yes - he got what he ordered after all)

Barista:  “Sure, not a problem.” 

She takes the drink back, then a second later, she hands it the orginal grande back to him.

Barista:  “Here, you can just give this to someone if you’d like, I’ll make a new one that is a venti.”

Guy:  “Really, ok, sorry for the trouble”

Barista:  “No trouble at all’

Guy approached me and asked if I wanted the free grande… nope, I have one already, but he took his new “WOM object” with him out of the store:)  I’m pretty certain he’ll tell this story a few times today.

Now it’s gonna be pretty tough to attach any metrics to this, but I thought it was a good moment and a simple reminder of the opportunity every company has to create the conditions for WOM by empowering their front line employees.  I think we can be pretty confident the barista never went to a WOM class.  Many companies have large populations of employees who touch many customers every day at retail, in customer service, in the support org, at their conferences, online, etc…I wonder how often those critical roles are forgotten in the grand plan for creating a WOM campaign.  It’s a shame that so many call centers in particular are seen as cost centers to operationalize instead of the WOM machines they could be.


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