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How Can You Be More Like Starbucks?

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

I promise this blog is not going to be a shameless plug about Starbucks. (Although I will admit that the entire Reverie team does REALLY love it!) Rather it is about empowering employees to be proactive in addressing customer service issues, and the benefits that come as a result of this empowerment. To fully appreciate the information in this blog, please take a moment to read this short article about what a Starbucks restaurant did for their customers who spent way too much time in the drive-thru lane.

My name is Annette, Reverie’s Client Engagement Manager. Once upon a time, I was a small business owner. For 10+ years, my mother, sister, and I owned and operated two Hallmark stores. And, as a former retail business owner, this article really resonated with me.

As a family-owned and operated business, it was our intent to treat our employees like family. Getting to know our employees well, showing our gratitude and appreciation for their hard work, dedication, and commitment, offering competitive wages and annual increases, and creating a warm and positive work environment for our team were very important to us. Making sure our employees were happy was our number one priority.

I do firmly believe our employees were happy, and that we succeeded in treating them like family. However, did we empower them? Did we show our trust in them enough that they felt they could make “in-the-moment” customer service decisions in our absence? Or, did they feel they could only make decisions based on the policies we drafted in our policies and procedures handbook? Did our employees feel that they could accept an expired coupon because that would mean more to the customer than us losing out on a few dollars? Did they allow someone to make a return past the 30-day return policy because this could turn a one-time customer into a lifetime customer? And, did they make these decisions because they knew we trusted them to make the right decision given the circumstance?

Ever since I read this article, I have been wracking my brain trying to recall a specific instance when this happened, but nothing came to me. I can only hope that my lack of recollection is a result of poor memory (our stores have been closed for over 10 years) and not that our employees didn’t feel empowered to make decisions that would result in our customers leaving our stores with the type of experience that would make them want to come back to our store - again and again.

What about you? Does this article make you ponder the same thing? Do your employees, who likely are extremely happy, also feel empowered, trusted, and confident enough to make the 'in-the-moment' and proactive decisions, just like this Starbucks location did, to correct an issue even before the customer has to ask?

As stated in the article, “by empowering your staff and helping to alleviate the stresses of their job by proactively helping customers, you'll also end up with a happier team and a lower employee turnover rate.” According to the Harvard Business Review, “when employees feel empowered at work, it's associated with stronger job performance, job satisfaction, and commitment to the organization.” Generally speaking, empowered employees will go that extra mile for you and your company. In the end, that equates to one thing - happy customers! And happy customers lead to growth, increased revenue, and excellent word-of-mouth marketing.

The statistics don’t lie! Empowering our employees is crucial to our business. How can you create a culture of empowerment in your company? Whether you are the owner, on the leadership team, a manager, or a team lead, here are a few suggestions to help you create that culture:

  • Let employees know that they have the ability to proactively address customer services issues before a customer has to address them.

  • Encourage your employees to resolve all customer service issues in a manner that the customer feels satisfied with the resolution. This doesn’t always mean that the customer will get exactly what he/she is looking for, but it does mean that he/she will walk away with a good feeling about the interaction he/she had with your brand.

  • Create company core values. Communicate those core values to all team members. Allow your employees to make “in-the-moment” or short-term decisions that will benefit the company in the long-term, based on following those core values.

  • Recognize when employees make decisions that lead to higher customer satisfaction.

  • Thank employees for their willingness to go above and beyond to make sure the customers are happy. Employees will be more likely to continue this behavior when they know they are supported and appreciated.

  • Communicate to your entire team when the proactive decisions of a team member resulted in positive outcomes for your company. This underscores that leadership appreciates the “out-of-the-box” decisions that lead to happy customers.

While not all small businesses can afford to give away free products to rectify a long wait or an unpleasant experience, they can all empower their employees to go that extra mile to make the interaction with your business a positive one.

If one of your team members recently made a decision to go above and beyond for your client/customer, we would love to hear about it. Please send us a note by emailing us at

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