Great UX Writing recipe from Starbucks Barista

Lessons in customer experience.

Photo by Asael Peña on Unsplash

Lattely (pun intended), I often found myself sipping a matcha latte in this Seattle-based coffeehouse chain.

From those countless encounters with Starbucks baristas, I found them friendly, knowledgeable, skilled professionals, and provides excellent customer service.

Starbucks baristas are a vital part of the Starbucks experience. So do UX writers. We are facing our customers with the copy we crafted.

Here are four things to learn about customer experience from Starbucks baristas.

Treating people like people

Every time I walk into Starbucks and stand at their counter to order, their baristas always try to initiate a small talk.

After short chit-chats around my order or weather, the signature “May I know your name?” is asked so they know what to write on the cup. It gave the feeling of being served in a personal way. The drink is made especially for me.

They called our names when the drink was ready, and the interaction did not stop there; they also sent a message to us on the cup.

Ordering drinks in Starbucks feels more like a conversation than a transaction.

What good UX writers and Starbucks baristas have in common is we create a seamless, delightful, and engaging experience for anyone who interacts with us.

When writing UX copies for a product, ensure the copy will converse delightfully with its users. Spend more time giving a soul and personality to the content, so the user will not interact with a dull and lifeless robot.

Both screens asking your name. But they do it differently.

Understand the product

When you ask a waiter about the menu, and their answer is a mix of “eerrrr” and “umm” topped with “I don’t know,” what do you feel?

All Starbucks baristas I met never fail to describe the products they put on the menu.

Even better, when I asked for their recommendation, they didn’t just show me the most expensive drinks; they asked for my preference to find the perfect refreshment to offer at the given moment.

UX writers main responsibility is to guide the user to reach a particular goal when using our product. Without a proper understanding of the product, how can we provide a frictionless and engaging experience to the people?

Here are why product knowledge is essential:

  • Help us to identify and solve problems. We can recognize areas where users might struggle or need more guidance and create copy that addresses these issues.
  • Allows us to help users better understand how to use our product by simplifying it, thus making it more inclusive and easier to use.
  • Make it possible to communicate the value proposition clearly and effectively, making users more likely to be interested in and engaged with the product.
  • Allow us to know what is lacking in the product and find a way to improve it.

After all, in users’ eyes, we are their guide. To be a competent guide, we must understand the product well. If not, it’s like the blind leading the blind.

Always be helpful

Baristas work in the service industry, so being helpful is necessary.

I befriended a Starbucks barista once; she mentioned that Starbucks has a “Just Say Yes” policy in one of our conversations. When a customer has a problem or complaint, baristas should offer them a “Yes.” and focus on what they can do for them instead of something else.

In my experience, I found it helpful that they are willing to help me spend less or get more. Not only once, they asked me if I had certain cards to be eligible for more discounts; if I wanted to use the upsize promo, or show me which drinks or food was on sale. I rarely encounter this in other cafes.

UX Writer should always be helpful too. Write to empathize, explain, offer solutions, and create a friendly and approachable situation.

Both screens are incorrect password messaging. One is more helpful than another.

Maintaining consistency

Tokyo, New York City, Bali, Labuan Bajo; the atmosphere and experience are familiar whenever I enter Starbucks’ door. Their branding are consistent, with a uniform look and feel across all its stores and products. So does with their baristas.

Consistency leads to owning a particular image. People grow more aware of — and attached to — Products that maintain an identity. Consistency is the key to building an immediately recognizable and memorable impression.

We can learn from Starbucks by striving to create consistent content in style, tone, and voice, helping create a cohesive user experience across all touchpoints.

Torrey Podmajersky said in her book Strategic Writing for UX that brand affinity is strengthened when the voice is consistent throughout the virtuous cycle. People can be more loyal to experiences and organizations that they recognize.

The bigger the team, maintaining consistency becomes harder. In the book’s second chapter, Torrey suggests having a voice chart. The voice chart can help us to define the voice we want in a way that anyone can use to maintain voice consistency.

Like all Starbucks baristas around the world who follow branding guidelines, everyone in the writers’ team should follow the voice chart when writing.

A blank voice chart.

Wrapping Up

Just like any barista in any coffee shop, UX writers is a customer-facing role; we write for people who use our product, and they interact directly with us via our copy. Here are what UX writers can learn from Starbucks baristas:

  1. Treating people like people creates meaningful connections and delightful conversations.
  2. Understand the product to guide the user to reach a particular goal when using our product
  3. Be helpful and always offer solutions.
  4. Maintain consistency to strengthen brand affinity.

Howard Schultz of Starbucks said: “We are not in the coffee business serving people; we are in the people business serving coffee.” Most people will agree Starbucks isn’t about the quality of the coffee; it’s about the experience.

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you make them feel.” — Unknown.

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Sincerely, a UX writer who went to Starbucks for work.

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