Two weeks ago I was in Dubai and gave a keynote speech about How To Differentiate by Becoming a Purpose-Driven Brand at AIBC Conference.
I grew up in Cyprus, where it’s hot, very hot, but not as hot as Dubai. I believe this city is hot on another level and I’m not a huge fan of it. On my first two days in Dubai I didn’t enjoy my coffee. It was a typical black Americano, but because they didn’t have soya or almond milk, it wasn’t that great.
On the third day, after my speech, I decided to go to a mall close to the venue and get a nice not-so-hot latte with almond milk.
I ordered the coffee and the barista asked me my name, so of course I told him. It’s something they do at every Starbucks. “ Alex,” I replied. He commented on my sunglasses, saying he liked them. I said thank you.
While I was working there on my laptop, I finished my first latte so I went and ordered a second one. The barista asked me where I was from and had a small talk with me while he was making the drink. At some point I left the coffee shop and came back in the afternoon. I ordered a drink and the guy asked me if it was my third drink of the day. I was surprised, how can he remember after so many hours?
The next day I went to the same Starbucks as I enjoyed the experience plus since they had great Wifi I could work there. The same experience: very attentive baristas. It looks like they’ve been trained for proper customer service, I said to myself.
On the same day, I went to Cafe Nero which was opposite Starbucks. I got the same drink, with the typical experience and the lady asked me if I wanted a muffin. The experience was okay. Not memorable, and definitely not special.
I decided to try Paul ,the coffee shop that was again nearly opposite Starbucks. I went to the counter and asked for a baguette and an almond latte. The barista asked me if it was to go or eat in, I told her I will eat in. She gave me a white paper with my order and told me to sit and a waiter will come. I waited for 14 minutes and nobody came. They had 6 waiters running around but none came to me. I decided to go back to the barista and told her I just want to order and take it myself. She said okay in a way that seemed like she was doing me a favour.
Two days ago I went to Starbucks here in Kings Cross, London, and the service was not even close to the Starbucks in Dubai. It was a typical “What drink would you like?” and “Thank you”. It made me think about how we can differentiate.
My speech was about how to stand out by building a purpose-driven brand, but this experience at Starbucks just shows us that we can stand out by doing small things. We can stand out by caring about another human being.
I don’t think I would ever go back to Paul or Cafe Nero. Not because of the product, but because of the service. I prefer going to Starbucks, just because of how the brand makes me feel.
Caring doesn’t cost money, it costs emotional labor. This way when we care we make someone feel special. I don’t know if the baristas at Starbucks in Dubai cared or not but it definitely made me feel a different way.