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An Amazing Customer Service and Leadership Story to Learn From

Learning Sign LanguageA recent segment on the CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood had an amazing customer service story. Krystal Payne, at a Starbucks in Leesburg, VA, noticed that one of her customers, Ibby Piracha, was deaf. One day Ibby came to get his usual coffee and Krystal handed him a handwritten note, which read:

“I’ve been learning ASL, American Sign Language, just so you can have the same experience as everyone else.” 

Wow! Now, this is a customer service story worth sharing – and learning from!

CBS News correspondent, Steve Hartman, interviewed Krystal and Ibby.

Ibby said, “I see that she gets out a piece of paper out, and I thought maybe she had a question for me or something, but it really wasn’t a question at all. And as I read through it, it shocked me.”

Apparently the note shocked him so much that he posted a picture of it online and then had it framed.

Krystal said, “If he’s a regular, and I want to make that connection with my regulars, I should be able to at least ask him what he wants to drink.”

Even more impressive is that Krystal took three hours of her own time to go on the Internet to find information about ASL, just so that she could ask a customer what he wanted to drink. Just one customer!

And, these are the stories that customer service legends are made of.

Several things worth noting and learning from were happening:

  • First and foremost, Krystal Payne is obviously an exceptional person. She understands what customer service is about. She gets people. Nobody told her to go home and learn sign language. Nobody offered to pay her to do it. She did it, simply because she knew it was the right thing to do.
  • Second, Starbucks hired her. Working for Starbucks is a good job. They don’t take everyone that applies. They treat their employees well, and in return the employees work hard to give their customers a great experience. After all, how else could they charge $3.00 (or more) for a twenty-five cent cup of coffee? The experience counts, and people like Krystal are the ones in charge of that experience.
  • Third, Krystal set an example for everyone else. At that moment, she demonstrated incredible leadership qualities. Not that she was the manager. No, she simply acted like a leader. She became a role-model for the other employees she worked with to aspire to. Krystal is someone you want on your team!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVI, Shep Hyken)

  1. She, this is what all customer service should be – going beyond what is expected to impact your customers’ lives in a meaningful manner. Krystal’s story should make all of us rethink just how far we should go for our customers – not just once – but everyday. Taking the initiative, Krystal definitely intuitively knows what a leader is and how to be leading. I am so very impressed! All I can say is, “Bravo, Krystal!” I wish there were more people like her!

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