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Surprise & Delight

When was the last time you took notice of exceptional customer service? My husband and I walk nearly every morning, and most mornings our walk leads us to our local Starbucks. This past Fall my husband sampled my pumpkin spiced cold brew for the first time and was hooked! Although he doesn’t care for coffee, this drink, this nectar of the gods, was such a treat for him it became his standard order (and if we are being honest, his motivation most days for walking). Until it wasn’t.


Pumpkin Spice (PS), as many Starbucks devotees know, is a seasonal drink spanning the autumn months into winter. Throughout December, long after we had said goodbye to Halloween and Thanksgiving, it was a daily game of Russian roulette as to whether this drink would still be available to order on the App, whether PS would give way to peppermint and other, more wintery flavors. And so it came to pass that on Thursday, January 4th my husband was cut off cold turkey: PS would no longer be available to order until the Fall — oh, the injustice of it all!


Enter Kayla, barista extraordinaire. Kayla makes our drinks most mornings and when she first started at our location took the time to get to know our names and our beverage preferences. My husband and I half-joke that it feels like we are entering the fictitious TV Cheers bar when we walk into “Kayla’s” Starbucks. The morning after the fateful but inevitable January 4th experience, Kayla greeted us as we walked in and said “I have something for you.” She disappeared to the back and came out with a Starbucks shopping bag, where inside was a half-gallon of pumpkin spice sauce and the written recipe on how to create the pumpkin spice cold brew and the delectable sweet pumpkin foam on top. We lived on this generous moment for the rest of the day, and still smile about it a week later.


People like Kayla operate from a SURPRISE & DELIGHT perspective - asking what she can do each day to make the lives of those she serves a little brighter, to go beyond the expected.


In Will Guidara’s 2022 book Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect he highlights the 95/5 Rule: ruthlessly manage 95% of your business down to the last penny, but spend that last 5% “foolishly”. That 5% can have an outsized impact on your business when it is funneled into transformative experiences for your clients.


As a leader, how can you surprise and delight your employees, so they in turn feel empowered to surprise and delight your customers? Its a ripple effect worth exploring.




(Please note: Kayla did not violate her employment agreement; her manager offered her the syrup to take home, as it would expire before next the PS season and no one wanted it (gasp!) to go to waste.  She also received permission to give it away.)








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