Picture from Google Images
Picture from Google Images

As I sat in class on one of the hottest days in London, I knew that I wanted a cold coffee Frappuccino. I already envisioned what I wanted – A Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino Blended Beverage- as advertised by Starbucks on their website. My expectations were high. As soon as class broke for the afternoon, I headed to my nearest Starbucks.

I joined the queue, to wait my turn but on arrival at the counter, my dreams were shattered. They didn’t serve that one there. I desperately asked, “Is there anything similar that I could order?”

I was expecting a knock off order from the menu. Boy was I surprised. The lovely barista told me that if I could purchase the chocolate from Starbucks, he could add vanilla and the pieces of chocolate to make something similar to the drink that I previously requested. I was so taken aback. In short, I was extremely delighted as not only did I receive a drink that met my need during the hot weather but unexpected excellent customer service as well.

This experience brought to mind two things:

1. Threshold and customer expectations

According to Jobber (2009), customers have thresholds, that is, standards which should be met, in order for them to conduct business with a company. Having these standards neither dissatisfy nor satisfy them but it is expected that the company must have them, as others in the industry do. In this case, companies advertise their products on their websites and are expected to have these products in stock. Therefore, I expected Starbucks to have the coffee made drinks as advertised. When I found it was not so, I was extremely dissatisfied, which matches with the theory that if thresholds are not present, the customer is dissatisfied. However, if the company adds something unexpected, beyond the threshold, such as the production of a custom-made cold drink as in my case, customers are delighted, which I was !

This also made me think of how meeting and exceeding customer expectations impact how well a company does. If he probably suggested something off of the menu, I would have continued in my disappointment and took my business elsewhere. However, due to his ability to gauge what I wanted, meet my need and fulfil my expectation, I not only bought the drink, but the chocolate to add to it. This brought my bill to £4.55 instead of around £2.40 (another ice drink in comparison). I did not intend to spend this much but the delight or benefit that I was receiving, overcame the cost.

This links to another theory on perceived benefits versus perceived costs. The benefits of a product or service perceived by customers must exceed the perceived costs in order for customers to derive value from the said product or service. For me, the perceived benefit of getting the drink that I wanted, exceeded the cost. Starbucks definitely created value through the level of service they offered. Definitely a big thumbs up!

2. Employee Empowerment/ Organisational Culture

What also came to mind during this experience was the fact that if Starbucks did not have a customer oriented culture, wherein employees are empowered to take their own initiative, I would have been issued a standard response:  “Sorry, we don’t have that drink. Would you like to order something else?”

On its website, Starbucks has prided itself on creating the full experience- from coffee, to breakfast items to music and atmosphere. It invites people to get to know them, as they are so much more than coffee (Starbucks, 2014). This is the reason behind their level of customer service, behind the freedom to customise and tailor the product to customer needs. They have founded the company on creating that atmosphere, and becoming a part of their customers’ everyday life.

This is confirmed in a study done by Foster-Fishman and Keys (1997) which shows that organisational culture and employee empowerment go hand in and hand. The culture must be one which allows for employee decision making, as seen in my Starbucks experience. According to New Charter University (2015), employees in a customer service oriented culture like Starbucks readily take initiative to solve customer problems.

I could go on and on. These are but a few of the theories that I could have applied. As you can see in just an everyday experience, the theories and concepts that we have learnt at different stages of our academic journey, can be easily applied. It adds a new dimension to normal transactions, making use of our vast but seemingly unnecessary theoretical knowledge. So give it a try and let me know how it goes.

If you like this post, please feel free to comment and share. I’ll be back next week to share more of my experiences.

Bye for now,

Astrid Lewis


Jobber, D., 2009. Principles and Practice of Marketing. 6th ed. Berkshire: McGraw-Hill

Foster-Fishman, P. and Keys, C.,1997. The Person/Environment Dynamics of Employee Empowerment: An Organizational Cultural Analysis. American Journal of Community Psychology, [online] Available at: <http://systemexchange.msu.edu/upload/org%20empowerment.pdf&gt; [Accessed 18 April 2015].

New Charter University, 2015. Organizational Culture. [online] Available at: <https://new.edu/resources/organizational-culture–9&gt; [Accessed 18 April 2015].

Starbucks, 2014. Our Company. [online] Available at: <http://www.starbucks.co.uk/about-us/company-information> %5BAccessed 18 April 2015].