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Is whipped cream ok?

Hang out at a Starbucks long enough and you’ll hear an employee ask a customer “is whipped cream ok.” This mild question is a testament to great customer service. Find the “whipped cream” in your service and your customers will appreciate it.

Whipped cream has been a part of hot chocolates, mochas and other beverages for years. Conversely, dairy alternatives are relatively new, starting with soy milk but more recently branching out to almond, coconut, cashew and oat milk. Customers’ lactose intolerance makes for more combinations and varieties of beverages. As a result, it’s not uncommon for a patron to ask for a mocha with almond milk. 

The problem is that mochas are typically topped off with whipped cream. If you add whipped cream to an almond milk mocha, it will have dairy in it. If you omit it, you’re assuming that the person wants almond milk because of a dairy allergy. So a good barista asks “is whipped cream ok” - the other reason they do this is because many customers neglect to include the preference. The employee (and Starbucks by extension) is being sensitive. That translates into a thoughtfulness that people feel even if it’s not explicitly noticed or appreciated in the moment. 

The same sensitivity occurs when you’re offered separate bag when you buy one gluten free pastry and one made with wheat. Assuming they can be in the same bag is dangerous: some might be fine with it, others may consider it a direct contaminant if they have Celiac disease. “Would you like these in separate bags” is an easy, thoughtful, sensitive question that shows that the bakery cares. Flight attendants will discreetly offer seat belt extenders to large passengers. This avoids the awkwardness and potential humiliation of having to request it. They do it quietly to also avoid similar humiliation. It’s unspoken and thoughtful. More industries are learning to do it more frequently.

What’s the sensitivity you show in your business? It could be around gender if you are in a position to require pronouns. It could be around how people prefer their names pronounced. It could be around how you deliver a seasonal greeting or acknowledgment of a religious holiday. It could mean a waiter offering a different colored napkin based on the color of your clothing. 

If you’re in an investment role, it could be asking whether the customer prefers a maximum return or minimized risk. 

If you’re in technology, it could be forcing the customer to change a temporary password so they see you don’t want or need access to their data.

If you’re not sure if you met someone before, it could mean saying “nice to see you” instead of “nice to meet you.”

There’s a “whipped cream” opportunity in any customer service business. Find it and your customers will notice and remember.


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