As a "roaming entrepreneur" (my new name for running a business without an office), I roam from coffee shop to coffee shop, from Panera to Panera, from Starbucks to Mocha Joes and others. In several of the local spots, they know me now - remembering my "usual" when I approach the counter.

By far, I've experienced the most impressive customer service at Starbucks. For years, I avoided the "uppity" coffee shop, thinking I'd never spend $4 for a hot chocolate or coffee (especially because I don't drink coffee), and I knew they didn't carry Coke or Pepsi, which offers my typical morning caffeine punch.

After receiving a Starbucks gift card from a friend this past Christmas, I figured I'd at least try it a couple times (before, when I got a Starbucks card, I'd give it to Anne because, "I don't drink coffee.")

And, boy, did I get turned around!

Within just a couple weeks (probably visiting 3-4 times), the barista - I think that's what they call them - knew my name and what drink I ordered. It's been months now, and Paige (yes, now I know her name, too!) is writing my name on a cup as I walk in the door!

As if my overall experience hadn't been over-the-top already, today it was truly UNEXPECTED:

I ordered and paid for my "usual" Grande Hot Chocolate (YES, hot chocolate - still freakin' cold in Ohio - high of like 60 today!). I moved over to my table to set up for the morning, waiting for my name to be called. It took a little longer than usual, but I wasn't concerned. I just went on with my typical routine. Maybe 3 minutes passed, and I hadn't been summoned to the counter yet, so I walked up to check in. There had been a small breakdown in the process behind the counter; they apologized and got started with my drink.

When I was called up a minute later, she apologized again and handed me a card. On the outside, it says: "A cup should never be half empty." And a complimentary drink was offered for my next visit!

UNEXPECTED.

My life was barely disrupted for about 30 seconds, but Starbucks (and its employees) felt like that was enough of an inconvenience to make it up to me.

UNEXPECTED.

They didn't HAVE to do this. It wasn't a big deal. Literally, we're talking a couple minutes of my time. But, they did; and they caught me off guard, giving me an even more awesome experience than usual, one that obviously affected me enough to write this!

What are you doing to catch your customers off guard? What about catching your spouse, friend, employees off guard?

How are you being UNEXPECTED?

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