Customer Experience: Starbucks vs. Petsmart

Monica (my sister) recently told me about this interesting experience she had with Starbucks. I told her to write about it for my blog.
What struck me about her experience was how different it was with one that I had with Petsmart. I’ll tell you about that after she tells her story which, btw, happened in San Francisco:
Starbucks wins… today
I left my wallet at home today and didn’t have the
time or inclination to drive all the way back home and
pay an extra 18 bucks to repark so I could go get it.
By 2pm my stomach started growling in protest.
When I realized my wallet was at home that morning I
started thinking about my options. I had my checkbook
with me, but hardly anyone will cash one without ID
(yes, in my wallet). I don’t think you can get money
from an ATM without a card…yet. And, although someone
only suggested it after the fact, I didn’t really
think calling Visa or MC for a money transfer was
worth it. I have no idea what that involves but it
just sounds complicated. I may be forgetful but I’m
also lazy.
When I stopped by the Starbucks just down the street
by my office though, I picked up a Starbucks gift card
(with no money on it) because I was starting to form a
little idea in my head. Any yes, I bought a latte and
a morning bun with a few bucks I borrowed from a
coworker…but I just hate borrowing money from anyone
not related to me. So I decided that was not a plan
for lunch.
I was thinking about whether I could eat the tortilla
chips that were still in my desk drawer from a few
weeks ago, but for a transplanted Texan, that’s a
pretty unappetizing thought without melty cheese or at
least some salsa. Nope.
I have a Starbucks card that I refill regularly so I
don’t have to carry cash, and so I can keep track of
how much I spend there…not that I want to know these
days, it’s the closest food and coffee place to my
work. Anyway I hardly know what money looks like
anymore. I got a new 5 dollar bill the other day and
thought it was counterfeit because his head was so
big. I hadn’t looked at one in a long time. Did I
mention I registered my Starbucks card on their
website a couple of weeks ago? I remember it said
that if I lost my card they could restore the balance
on another one. Hmm…
So I called them up around 2pm and spoke to a
friendly, knowledgeable customer service rep. I could
hardly believe my luck!
I asked if they could transfer the balance from my
card at home to the one I had just picked up at the
store. I wanted a sandwich. The rep had to check with
a supervisor to make sure, but after about five
minutes they informed me that they had done just that
and my new card would be active in another five. Yes I
had to answer questions and give them the “secret
word” or whatever, just like any other authentication
process, but after a few minutes my card in my hand
had my money on it. Brilliant.
I was impressed as usual by my problem solving skills,
but even more so by Starbucks. I had lunch money at
home, lunch money in the bank, lunch money on any
number of credit cards from Chase, from Citi, you name
it, that all boast fancy rewards, but when all I
wanted was a sandwich and maybe an iced latte,
Starbucks was the only company to come through…fast.
– Monica Sarkar
By contrast, I had a terrible experience with Petsmart. I took three so-called “gift cards” to them in the hopes of buying an aquarium for the kids. They told us the cards didn’t work- they were “not in the system.” So how does one get in the system? You have to go home, call up their customer service- read them out a 20-digit code on each card and wait to here them tell you: “OK, that card has $10.00 on it.”
When you ask: “What happens if they tell me there is no money on the card at the store?” the reply is:”Then have them call us and we can transfer them to tech-support.”
Is this what Tom Peters calls a WOW experience? Maybe we can call it a “BOW-WOW” experience.
Sadly, multi-channel integration is a challenge for many companies. Jeffrey Rayport and Bernie Jaworski write about it in their book Best Face Forward: Why Companies Must Improve Their Service Interfaces With Customers.
Personally, I hate shopping- so as far as I’m concerned, I never want to see Petsmart again.
Finally, if you want to picky, you can argue that “customer service is not the same as customer experience” as Mark Hurst does in this post.
It’s still a “BOW-WOW” experience as far as I’m concerned…

One Reply to “Customer Experience: Starbucks vs. Petsmart”

  1. Petsmart is going off the deep end in customer service. In the never ending quest to increase sales, they are now coming over and wanting to help you choose cat food, collars, even a doggie diaper for a puppy who isn’t completely housetrained. If their sales clerks/trainers were actually helpful, I might not be complaining, but so far all they do is waste my valuable time.
    Today, for example, I went to Petsmart to purchase a doggie diaper. Out of nowhere, this voice asks “can I help you” and then this pet trainer started implying I need to get a crate (already have one, thank you) and began trying to have a discussion about my dog. To get out of the situation quickly, I agreed with her recommendation to get the small size even though I thought Bogart needed a medium. Of course, when I took the diaper out in the car, it was clearly way too small. So I had to go back in and exchange the diaper. My 5 minute shopping trip turned into a half-hour headache.
    It probably won’t do any good, but I am calling Petsmart tomorrow to suggest they teach their clerks to read human body language.

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