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Starbucks and the Customer

Hi everyone, it's me — Alison Overholt of the infamous Starbucks customer service/customer loyalty rant.

First, I want to thank Paul Williams of Starbucks and John Moore of Whole Foods for joining us this week as guest hosts. Back in November when my blog post made its way to Starbucks' customer care department, I received a phone call in which I was asked, "How can we make it better?" I'm guessing that the normal answer is, "Give me some free coffee and we're back in business," but it occurred to me that not every disgruntled customer works for a magazine, posts a complaint on a public site, and gets a chance to air a grievance with the head of the customer service department.

So I didn't ask for free coffee. I told the woman on the other end of the line that the conversation generated on our website was downright exciting, because it was causing our readers — who are customers and business owners alike — to ask some important and difficult questions about branding, customer service, and customer loyalty. And perhaps the best way to "make it right" was to continue that conversation. To show our readers — and me, the disgruntled customer — that my phone experience that day was an aberration and that there are lessons to be learned here on both sides.

Our readers can learn what it looks like from where Starbucks is sitting: what are the trade-offs one has to make? What factors are considered when building a customer loyalty or branding campaign? How hard is it to maintain service standards? And Starbucks can hear straight from the horse's mouth how effective those choices and decisions have been.

And now here is Paul, and he's even brought John with him, to give us a second perspective from the high-end grocery business.

So post away — ask your questions, tell us what's on your minds, and give a big round of applause to Paul and John for taking on the challenge. This looks to be an exciting week on FCNow.

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