Thursday, September 3, 2009

Can You Afford To Be Generous?

Photo: powerbooktrance

On the drive to work, I swung by Starbucks. I stop by this particular Starbucks fairly often, but not enough for me to recognize any of their employees. The only clue to the amount of money Starbucks sucks out of me was my use of a Starbucks logoed mug, which was a gift.

I asked for the bold coffee. The barista rang up the order and took my mug to rince it out. She returned to sadly inform me that the bold wasn't ready. It would take another three minutes. Or, she offered, I could have Pike Place now.

In truth, three minutes is no big deal. I can pull out my phone and easily spend ten times that about amusing myself with Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, email, or one of the blogs I follow. Shoot, in a normal restaurant it takes a multiple of three minutes to catch the wait staff's attention (though servers always seem to be Johnny-on-the-spot when I don't want anything).

But I didn't want to wait three minutes this morning. I smiled and said, "Oh, just give me the Pike Place."

She cheerfully filled my mug and when I started to pay, refused to accept it. She said, "This one's on us."

A free cup of coffee isn't like winning the lottery, but it still felt good. A McDonald's is located about a quarter mile away. I doubt McDonald's would give me a free cup of coffee, though McDonald's promises coffee for less.

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker

Honestly, the margin in coffee is high enough that McDonald's has plenty of room to give a cup away now and then, but I doubt management looks at it that way. I suspect they think they're offering a generous price and nothing more is needed. At least, that's what their marketing suggests.

By charging more, Starbucks has more room to be more generous. Even though I pay higher prices at Starbucks, I feel like I'm treated better. Starbucks seems friendlier and more caring.

Coffee's not the same as in-home service, but it's still part of the service industry. Scale the principle and it can work for your company.

Do you charge enough that you can afford to make a generous gesture from time to time?

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