Making it work

Would you like a LATTE with that complaint?

By Gerald McGroarty,

Comments (6)

Sitting in a Starbucks the other day, I overheard a conversation between two people. They were deeply engaged in a discussion about work-related issues when one of them declared, “We’re all in the customer service business. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are or what you do. Treat people right and you can’t go wrong.”

Image of a confident customer service-oriented person in a coffee shop.I thought his words were bang-on, especially since I was in an establishment that wrote the book on customer service. Actually, countless publications have sung the praises of the secrets to Starbucks’ success. The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles For Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, It’s Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks and Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul are only three of a dozen books loaded with tips, strategies and insight into what makes Starbucks one of the world’s leading brands.

It’s not like Starbucks has cornered the market on customer service; it hasn’t, but what it has done is build a culture of superior service that makes it look like the leader of the pack.

Where Starbucks has catapulted itself to the top is in handling customer complaints and problems. For those of you who frequent the coffee shop chain, you know there is never a problem with dealing with a problem. In fact, complaints are almost embraced as opportunities to make someone happy.

Keeping the customer happy is the key

Rarely will you see a dispute, argument or even mild debate within the walls of a Starbucks. It simply doesn’t happen because keeping the customer happy is the foundation of the business.

So knowing it works for Starbucks, I thought this might work for you. The next time you’re faced with a complaint from a customer, client, co-worker or that crazy neighbour, try applying one of Starbucks’ most successful customer service strategies.

It’s called the LATTE method for dealing with customer problems. LATTE is simply an acronym for:

  • Listen completely to the customer.
  • Acknowledge the problem.
  • Take action to resolve the problem.
  • Thank the customer for bringing the situation to your attention.
  • Encourage the customer to return.

This method is incredibly simple to apply, yet it can sometimes misfire if our focus is slightly blurred. To help make it crystal clear, remember this:

Listen means active listening, it doesn’t mean not speaking. There’s a big difference. You want to listen for clues to what exactly the problem is.

Acknowledge the problem is best delivered by repeating back to the person what you believe to be the issue. If perhaps you’ve read the situation wrong, this will be the time to clarify any misunderstanding.

Take action means exactly that – do something about the problem. The quicker you can move forward the quicker the problem will be resolved.

Thank them. Killing a customer with kindness often works, but when it’s done with sincerity it has a whole new meaning. Remember, with every complaint comes a chance to learn, fix and make someone happy.

Encouraging people to return is simply inviting them to connect with you again.

The LATTE method has proven successful and the more you apply it and see the results, the greater the chance you’ll be able to resolve some big meltdowns.

People are funny about conflict. Some are very comfortable with it and others will do anything to avoid it. The fact is you have to deal with it. Dealing with complaints can be very challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. The best way to start is with a latte.

More business relationship tips:

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Responding To Customer Complaints On Social Media on

[…] will help keep you on track with consistent and level headed responses. Martinuzzi points out Starbuck’s LATTE method for dealing with complaints. Starbucks’ baristas are trained to respond to complaints by […]

Julia on

Reblogged this on BTC GEM and commented:
Great way to remember the steps to turn a concern into a compliment!

Colleen on

Great comments. I saw an example of Starbuck’s great service just recently. My friend was excited to get their pumpkin latte ‘fix’ which is only available this time of year at Starbucks. When she went there to order it (this was late August) she was told she was a couple of days too early and it wasn’t available yet. Sensing her huge disappointment Starbucks offered her a free loafcake to take instead. She told everyone she knew about this the following weekend – great example of turning a disappointed customer into a raving fan!

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