Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On satisfaction guarantees

I posted yesterday about an off-putting experience at Starbucks. Basically, I felt like I was watching an Italian cafe experience production machine as opposed to a bunch of people making me a good cup of coffee in a nice setting.

I started thinking about Starbucks' satisfaction guarantee. I don't remember the exact language, but they guarantee that your beverage will be exactly what you want or they'll fix it (i.e., make you another I suppose).

OK, that's nice. But it brings me back to my earlier comment about the experience being manufactured with all of the professionalization and sterility that "production" implies vs. a true human experience.

Who can really guarantee 100% satisfaction? Well, a machine. One that's been built and tested rigorously to produce and reproduce over and over with no variance. But is that what I want? Do I want a "perfect coffee experience" each and every time I go to Starbucks because they have a detailed training manual, a coffee college for baristas, rigorous processes...? Or do I want a really good experience that isn't exactly the same each time. That has texture due to all sorts of factors including human variation.

I think I want the latter.

But humans cannot guarantee perfection each and every time. We get tired. We get cranky. We forget.

So what should a satisfaction guarantee really offer?

Well maybe they can just guarantee that if they screw up, they'll take care of it and make you happy. Maybe sometimes they just add the cream they forgot. Maybe they make you a new beverage. Maybe they offer you a $10 gift card... Maybe Starbucks doesn't have to tell its employees exactly how to make people happy.

In the end, I want a human experience. Now I don't want it to come with all of the crap that life throws at me. I get that for free. But I also don't want to feel like I've stepped into an experience assembly line.

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