Last Updated on 17 August 2010

“How do we define service at this company?”

If you were to send that question in an e-mail to the person responsible for operations, the person responsible for hiring, the person responsible for marketing, the person responsible for sales, the head of your company, and a front-line employee (assuming these aren’t all the same person)… would they all respond with the same answer? Same words?

Even if the answers are similar… close isn’t good enough if you expect to provide a consistent and quality experience for every single customer.

If we were talking about a car part, you’d never expect the designer, the part manufacturer, and the specification manual to differ in their understanding or description of a specific part… It is surprising to me that we let service – a HUGE part of most of our businesses be treated with ambiguity.

One of the challenges is that service is situational. Each customer needs to be treated as a fresh, new individual. Even regular customers aren’t the same everyday they enter your business. You can’t script conversation – employees need to quickly assess and react appropriately. So, that’s where service differs from a car part.

One of the last projects I contributed to while working at Starbucks was the “Green Apron Book”. This pocket-sized booklet describes the language we calibrated at Starbucks. These became known as the “five ways of being” – the core behaviors/actions that ultimately provide the “Starbucks Experience.”

First, we had to gather all of the different versions that existed. My colleague Jennifer interviewed people from all over the company… old, new, junior, senior, customers, vendors, you name it… She distilled the responses down to these basic themes:

  • Be Welcoming
  • Be Genuine
  • Be Considerate
  • Be Knowledgeable
  • Be Involved

We then went further and added a bit of clarification…

  • Be Welcoming: Offer Everyone a Sense of Belonging.
  • Be Genuine: Connect, discover, respond.
  • Be Knowledgeable: Love what you do. Share it with others.
  • Be Considerate: Take care of yourself, each other and our environment.
  • Be Involved: In the Store, the company, in your community.

The beauty of this new, calibrated language is that it is not prescriptive. You are expected to demonstrate these behaviors/actions, but how you do that is up to the individual.

Every partner at Starbucks has access to the Green Apron Book and should be using it as a guide for “how we define service at this company.”

How are you ensuring calibrated language at your company?

Does this article look familiar? I original posted it on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix Blog.