Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Posts Tagged ‘Starbucks’

Re-Experience Starbucks, Update 9: Customer Loyalty

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 29, 2008

Part 9 of the ongoing ReExperience Starbucks project with Jay Ehret from The Marketing SpotDon’t forget our survey, which is still open, at the end of the post. Please tell us what you think about the changes at Starbucks!

How does Starbucks create customer loyalty?  John Moore at BrandAutopsy said this a few years back:

“For years, Starbucks Coffee has used high-touch methods to build and maintain a loyal customer base. In his book, “Pour Your Heart in It,” Howard Schultz, in supremely succinct fashion said, “If we greet customers, exchange a few words with them and then custom-make a drink exactly to their taste, they will be eager to come back.” That is the true description of a high-touch way retailers can connect with customers to build enduring loyalty.

John was writing this post to contrast the approach of high-tech methods of building loyalty with high-touch methods of building loyalty.  Which approach is Starbucks using today?  Let’s look at what they have been doing lately to improve customer loyalty and the customer experience.

Customer Service

Starbucks closed all of their US-based stores for a few hours earlier this year to conduct partner (employee) training.  Right after the training, it was observed that Starbucks partners were making it a point of asking for customer names again (something they had moved away from) when taking drink orders. They also seemed pretty cheerful and upbeat.

Fast-forward to July 2008.  At my most recent experience in a Starbucks I regularly frequent, there was no recognition or asking for names.  My mother-in-law was with me, and she pointed out how “grumpy” one of the partners seemed to be.  I had noticed this before with the same person.  I did notice signs on the wall, directed at partners, which pointed out how to manage fresh bananas (a key ingredient in their new Vivanno smoothies).  

I have also noticed a quieter, more subdued attitude from employees at other Starbucks I have been to lately (including my most commonly visited store near my house).  I wonder if a combination of store closing news and the introduction of new, time-consuming drinks has weighed-down our barista friends.

Customers Rock! Take: Keep focusing on your employees, especially when things are difficult.  They are your brand ambassadors to the outside world.  Customers will notice the change in customer service right away!

New outside seating!

New outside seating!

Customer Experience

 

 

 

 

 

I am not sure if this is happening at other Starbucks, but one of our local stores has put in nice, comfy seating – outdoors!  Now if they can just 1) keep the tables cleared of trash and 2) put some more cushioned chairs inside, we might have a winner.  (Note – that is my Passion Iced Tea on the arm of the chair…)

 

Introducing… New Products

Starbucks has really been focusing on the introduction of new products in their stores these past few months.  First came Pike’s Place Roast, a new blend of coffee meant to hearken back to early days when Starbucks was a true coffee experience.  Although it has had mixed reviews, the idea of grinding in the store has helped boost the coffee aroma (which was sorely missing before).

Most recently has come Vivanno smoothies (mentioned earlier), the Orange-Mango Banana and the Banana Chocolate.  These two new smoothies are high in protein and fiber, and not horrible with respect to calories (compared to the Frappuccino).   Reviews of the Vivanno so far have been mixed.  One interesting thing I noticed in the comments to the blog post Starbucks’ Vivanno vs Jamba Juice was how customers felt like it was out of place to order “smoothies” at a coffee store!  Others who are comfortable with the use of protein powders really seemed to like these drinks (see comments in this BusinessWeek post on Vivanno).  Personally, I would rather stick with my iced tea and get smoothies somewhere else.

Customers Rock! Take: The Pike’s Place Roast has been a good way to try and re-focus on being a coffee store.  It still needs some work, but they are on the right track.  The smoothies are a good option for someone coming to Starbucks looking for something nutritious to drink.  However, is this really why people come to Starbucks? 

Does It Make a Difference?

Here are the real questions to be answered.  Do these new smoothies help Starbucks get back to the “third place” experience?  Does the Pikes Place Roast bring in new customers?  Does the Starbucks Loyalty Card bring back loyal customers?  So far, the reviews are conflicting.  It takes more than new drinks, free WiFi, and comfy chairs to retain customers.  It is not just about high-tech vs high-touch approaches.  It takes building relationships, one customer at a time. 

Starbucks has the opportunity to do so through many channels, both high-tech and high-touch: the daily interactions with customers, the registered Starbucks Reward cards (they have yet to try to interact with me, and I have three cards registered), and their site MyStarbucksIdea (which is heading in the right direction but lacks a true dialogue between customers and partners).   However, it just hasn’t really happened yet.

Starbucks, I would like to see you be successful in re-inventing yourselves through the customer experience.  It would set new standards for other companies who know they should be more customer-focused.  It would make your existing customers happier.  It would help insulate you from your competition, and they are charging up fast. 

There is just one thing you still need to do: look at your stores truly from the customers’ perspective.

What do you think?  Fill Out Our Survey!

Jay and I have put together a short survey to see what you, our readers, think about Starbucks and its “re-Experience” project.  Please take just a minute to click on this survey link and fill it out.  You could even win, what else, a gift card to Starbucks!  We will be report results on our blogs shortly.

(Photo credit: TAlex)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Starbucks and Store Closings: How will it affect the experience? Update 8

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 3, 2008

Custom latte photo from Starbucks
Custom latte photo from Starbucks

Starbucks recently announced they will be closing 600 domestic stores, which will mean Starbucks partners at those stores will be “placed” at other stores or let go.  Reactions to this announcement are varied, and they include John Moore’s post on the need for Starbucks to “prune” (which he wrote last year and is still relevant today), Jay Ehret (my partner in the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project) and his post on the commoditization of Starbucks, as well as partner discussion over at the Starbucks Gossip blog about who will stay and who will go.

Here is the official word to customers from Starbucks as part of their press release on the closures: 

Starbucks will reach out to customers who are impacted by the store closures in a variety of ways including directing them to the Starbucks Store Locator at http://www.starbucks.com. Customers who have questions or comments on any store or their Starbucks Experience may contact Starbucks Customer Relations via the web at www.starbucks.com/customer/contact.asp.

Until the store closings are announced to the partners, the Store Locator won’t help (I checked for my area, and nothing has changed yet).  In the meantime, customers appear to be reaching out to Starbucks about their favorite locations.

Customers Want to Help

Per feedback from some Starbucks baristas in the comments at the SB Gossip blog, there are customers who are asking what they can do to help [clarifications in brackets added by me]:

“Every customer who asked today wanted to know what they could do to ensure my store wouldn’t close. (That’s like 50% of the cafe, and 80% or the DT [drive thru] customers).

My DM [manager] was in house, working on his computer when a couple of the folks asked, so I pointed them to him. He, and they, were more than happy to have the discussion.”

Customers are even reminiscing about the Starbucks they have visited and are offering suggestions of which stores to close/open on MyStarbucksIdea, the Starbucks customer community:

On memories:

“I have traveled much of the US for work and pleasure and have visited many of your locations. I have many fond memories at your locations in Seattle, San Fran, Atlanta, and NYC and interested in knowing if they closed without having to go through the list (as they are long and remembering some addresses is difficult.)”

On which Starbucks to cut:

“Close the stores in Safeway and Target and open another drive up store on West Main – Close the drive up store in Bloomfield, NM the drinks there are sub standard and so is the service. “

The Customer Perspective

From the customer perspective, the Starbucks experience is as much about the people as it is about the coffee.  As I have said before, the people make the difference.  Will customers follow their favorite baristas to their new assignments?  What if they go to a competitor?  Relationships built up with people count for a lot – we build trust with other human beings, not with a company.

It remains to be seen whether these closures will impact the customer experience in a negative way.  If going back to the customer experience is really what the Starbucks “Transformation Agenda” is about, then one wonders where increasing the number of store closures fits in.  If the stores that remain open are staffed to the proper levels so customer service doesn’t suffer, this may help the experience in the long run.

Per John Moore, pruning is important for the health of a plant (or a business).  It allows for new growth.  I agree with you, John, and I am glad to see Starbucks focusing on their key business, including those stores that offer the most success to the company. 

However, too much pruning, or cuts in the wrong places, can severely damage the plant.  What remains can be ugly.  I am trusting that Starbucks is not going into “cost cutting” mode (and I hope you are right, John, that they are not) but is truly using the shears as part of a long-term strategy for business health and happiness.

Posted in Customer experience, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks, Update 7 – Listening to Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 26, 2008

reExperiencing StarbucksPart 7 of the ongoing ReExperiencing Starbucks project with Jay Ehret from The Marketing SpotSurvey at the end of the post - please tell us what you think about the changes at Starbucks!

Slowly but surely, Starbucks seems to be listening.  I blogged about MyStarbucksIdea when it first came out, and there were a lot of improvements to make.  I believe Starbucks has made a real effort over the past few months that they have been up and running with MyStarbucksIdea.   I have seen improvements on both the IdeaSite (new term?) as well as in person.  Read on…

IdeaSite Improvements

MyStarbucksIdea was heavily criticized when it first came out.  The Customers Rock! perspective on it was this – it is good to see Starbucks out there engaging their customers this way.  And boy, have they been engaged!  Thousands of customer ideas have gone on the site, with the majority of the ideas being about the coffee drinks themselves (no surprise here) and then the atmosphere and locations.  What should these ideas tell Starbucks?  First, it should tell them that customers are coming for the coffee, so make sure to get that right.  Second, customers are still in search of what they used to have at Starbucks, that “3rd place” to hang out and relax with friends.

Maybe customers don’t come up with a lot of new or innovative ideas, but the dialogue is a great way for Starbucks to get inside their customers’ heads and see how they think. 

In addition, I am glad to see Starbucks beginning to participate more in the conversation on the site, as well as soliciting direct feedback on how to improve the site.  Be sure to click into that post and read the comments; you can watch a little mini-community forming as you go.  :)

Interaction with Corporate – In Person!

I also had the good fortune of interacting with two gentlemen from Starbucks Corporate recently.  Apparently, part of their role is to go out and visit the Starbucks in their area to see how things are going.  They stopped me on my way out of the line to ask me about “my experience”.  I was happy to share my thoughts with them – about bathroom cleanliness (spotty), about the atmosphere (I like it), about my favorite drink (Passion Iced Tea, sweetened), about how the service seems on weekdays vs the weekends (better when they are busy, I think).  I then revealed that I blog here at Customers Rock! and shared about this ongoing Starbucks Project with them.  They asked me a few more questions before moving on to their meeting with the local supervisory team.

After they left, the employees there thanked me for my kind words and gave me a free drink.  Thanks, guys!

Although I would have loved to see the visitors from Corporate commenting here on my blog, I am pleased to see a team out inspecting the stores and asking customers about their experience.  Kudos to you, Starbucks, for getting out there and interacting face to face with customers.  It is more valuable than you think!

Please Fill Out Our Starbucks Survey!

Jay and I have put together a short survey to see what you, our readers, think about Starbucks and its “re-Experience” project.  Please take just a minute to click on this survey link and fill it out.  You could even win, what else, a gift card to Starbucks!  We will be sure to report the results here soon.

Also see Jay Ehret’s blog The Marketing Spotfor more Starbucks insight on “The Perfect Frappuccino”, as well as Meikah Delid who is keeping her related Starbucks series going with The Sixth Step for Starbucks.  Thanks, Meikah!

Related Customers Rock! posts in the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project series:

Re-Experiencing Starbucks

Part 2: Transformation Starting

Part 3: The Training

Part 4: Little Things

Part 5: MyStarbucksIdea

Part 6: The Card

Posted in Community, Customer experience, Customer strategy, Marketing, social media, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Airline Customer Service Makes All the Difference

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 19, 2008

The Airline ExperienceThe airline industry is in quite a mess.  Extra fees being charged for bags have passengers feeling even more “nickle and dimed” than ever.  Fuel costs are driving more people to take their vacations at home.  Cut-backs at airlines mean fewer employees doing more work = grumpy people.  What is an airline to do?

Would you be surprised if I said “Improve the Customer Experience”!  Well, it is not just me saying it this time.  J.D. Power and Associates just released the results of their 2008 North American Airline Satisfaction Study.  Declining customer satisfaction is linked with the level of customer service provided by airline staff, even more than it is linked with concerns over extra fees and prices.  Per the press release:

The study finds that satisfaction with “people” factors—including knowledge, courtesy and helpfulness of reservation and gate agents, check-in staff and flight crew—has declined dramatically since 2007, and is the leading contributing factor to the overall decline in customer satisfaction with airlines in 2008. The decrease in satisfaction with people factors is more than twice as large as the decline in satisfaction with price factors.

The press release goes on to quote Sam Thanawalla, director of their global hospitality and travel practice, who urges airlines to invest in their employees in order to improve the customer experience.

Here is the Customers Rock! take on the situation:

In a tough economy like this one, customers will be very choosy about where they spend their hard-earned money.  If a customer has decided to take a trip, they want to it to be great!  Airlines need to get with the program and look at the experience from the customer’s perspective.  It won’t take much “mystery shopping” to figure out where to find the pain points.  It could be just a few simple things that make the difference, but airlines need to get into a conversation with their customers in order to figure this out.  Southwest Airlines has done an exceptionally good job of this with their Nuts About Southwest blog, even changing some of their policies as a result of customer feedback.  (Fun aside – Southwest just blogged about MyStarbucksIdea, and now their customers are starting to ask for MySouthwestIdea… think it will catch on?)

Yes, the customer experience really does matter to customers, and it matters more every day.  Marketing, customer service, HR, sales – all departments need to put their heads together and figure out how to create better customer relationships via the experience.  Quick – do it before your competition does! 

(Photo credit: egdigital)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer strategy, social media | Tagged: , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Starbucks and Empowering Employees

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 2, 2008

 Those two topics go together, as Starbucks is a company that works to empower its employees (which they call “partners”) in order to improve the customer experience.  Their recent “We’ll Make Your Beverage Right” focus is a good example of this strategy.  More on Starbucks below, as well as in a post coming soon.

I am busy getting ready for a customer service workshop tomorrow, entitled “The Importance of 5-Star Service in a  Tough Economy”.  If you have a minute to send me your definition of 5-Star Service, I would love to include it!  You can send me email (becky at petraconsultinggroup dot com) or just leave a comment in this post.  I posted the question on Twitter as well as LinkedIn and have received nearly 20 responses from around the world.  I will summarize in a future post.

In the meantime, here are a few additional items to help start off your week. 

Re-Experiencing Starbucks Podcast

Jay Ehret and I spent some time together recently (about 24 minutes, actually) on a podcast, where we discussed the latest happenings at Starbucks as part of our Re-Experiencing Starbucks Project.  We are watching Starbucks from a customer’s perspective to see what kind of difference the changes are making (or not) to the customer experience. 

Here are some of the topics from the show:

  1. Improving the U.S. business with training, tools and new products.
  2. Re-igniting the emotional attachment with customers through the experience.
  3. Re-aligning and streamlining organizational structure for the benefit of the experience.
  4. International expansion.

You can find the podcast itself at Jay’s blog. Don’t forget to tell Jay that I sent ‘ya!

Blog Book Tour

I am honored to be one of the reviewers of Sybil Stershic’s new book, Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most, which is about taking care of employees so they take care of your customers.  Sybil’s publisher, WME Books, is hosting a Blog Book Tour; here are the scheduled stops:

And next week:

I will be giving a review of the book as well as conducting an interview with Sybil.  Let me know if you have any questions for me to include!

(Side note: I have other book reviews coming up soon; this may turn out to be book week!  Reviews are pending for Michael Port, Darren Rowse, Tsufit, and Lewis Green… stay tuned, as they all have great books in different areas which include blogging, PR, sales, and employee/customer focus.)

Posted in Blogging, Customer experience, Marketing, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 6 – The Card

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 12, 2008

Starbucks card collection - flickr photo by mightykenny Part 6 in the ongoing Re-Experiencing Starbucks series in partnership with Jay Ehret at The Marketing Spot.

Update!  I was just at my local Starbucks and had the opportunity to speak with two Starbucks partners (employees) who were there to review that store and its customer experience.  I was very impressed by the questions they were asking their customer (me) about the experience, as well as how they were seeking out my opinions for improvement.  Kudos to you, Starbucks, that you have great people working for you like Kevin and Marcus who really care about their customers!  :)

Now, back to the post:

What is the latest on the Starbucks experience?  Let’s listen in to the Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz.  Per Schultz’s latest Communication (#14),

I would like to reiterate that we are still in the early stages of our transformation and efforts to enhance our customers’ experience.  There is still much work to be done, but we will succeed.  Our summer, fall, and holiday promotional periods are coming up, which, I believe, will be enthusiastically embraced by our customers and partners.

I would tend to agree here with Mr. Schultz.  The Starbucks re-experience is still in its early stages as evidenced by the inconsistent execution of their revamped loyalty card program.  Now, my long-time readers know that I focus on the positive here at Customers Rock!, so I am reluctant to criticize.  However, I have not had good experiences with the new Starbucks card program, and I am not alone. Both Leslie Price at Racked and John Blue at InnovationCreation have recently blogged about some frustrating card experiences.

The main concern seems to be the process by which Starbucks partners (employees) apply the discounts that should be available to the owner of a registered Starbucks card.  According to the Starbucks website, benefits of a registered Starbucks card include free shots of syrup, free brewed coffee refills, and free coffee with a whole bean purchase.  I was pretty excited about this, since I like to add syrup to some of my coffee drinks.

However, I also discovered that, unless I inform the barista ahead of time that my Starbucks card is registered, the discounts are not applied.  In other words, the Starbucks card database is not tied to the cash register system.  In one case, I told the Starbucks barista that my card was registered before I ordered my sweetened Iced Tea, and her response was, “Well, it doesn’t make any difference with your order.”

I do know that if someone has a problem with their drink or transaction, Starbucks will fix it for you; often they will give you a free drink coupon for next time.  However, this doesn’t always make up for the inconvenience for the customer doing the ordering (or the customers behind them in line who have to wait).

Recommendations

As with any new program, there are always kinks to be worked out.  However, it does seem a little short-sighted to implement this type of program and expect the customer to take full responsibility for reminding the store about the discount.  For this very reason, it is always recommended to think through a new customer-facing program (especially a loyalty program) before implementing.  This should include goals for the program, operational details, the stages of the customer’s experience, and the measures of success.

I would recommend that Starbucks quickly have each barista ask a simple question of each customer using a Starbucks card: “Is this card registered?”  They may have a few people that sneak in, but for the most part, customers are honest and will do the right thing.  It would certainly make the customer experience much better.

Also see Jay Ehret’s blog The Marketing Spot for more Starbucks insight.

Related Customers Rock! posts in the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project series:

Re-Experiencing Starbucks

Part 2: Transformation Starting

Part 3: The Training

Part 4: Little Things

Part 5: MyStarbucksIdea

(Photo credit: mightykenny)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Marketing, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Coffee Experience: Free Coffee at Starbucks

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 8, 2008

 Hat tip to Jay Ehret for this one.  If you have been reading Customers Rock! for awhile, you know that Jay and I are jointly working on a project to see if Starbucks is able to re-invent their customer experience.  (You can go to the Categories list in my sidebar to see all posts on this.)  One of the key areas is, well, the coffee itself.  People have said that Starbucks doesn’t even smell like coffee anymore when you walk in.

Today, Starbucks is hoping to raise their image to change that.  They are introducing their new Pike’s Place Roast, and as part of the introduction, they are giving away free Short (8 oz.) cups today, April 8, at US-based Starbucks cafes.  This is coffee made with their new process, fresh ground beans, brewed at least every 30 minutes.  From their press release:

Customers Spoke.  Starbucks Listened.
The new Pike Place Roast™ was artfully created by Starbucks master blenders and roasters using input from customers and baristas to achieve a bold taste and smooth finish.  Nearly 1,000 customers spent almost 1,500 hours providing input on what’s important to them in a cup of coffee.

“It was an exciting opportunity to find the right roast that would produce the flavor customers told us they wanted in a daily coffee,” said Andrew Linnemann, Starbucks master coffee blender. “We heard our customers and we were determined to deliver the consistent high-quality cup that they expect every time they walk into one of our stores.”

According to some of the discussion at MyStarbucksIdea around offering a sample size of beverages, Starbucks will already give you a sample of a drink for free so you can see if you like it.  Plus, they are standing by their new mantra that a drink should be to your liking, or they will remake it for you, free.  So what is up with the “free” Pikes Place Roast today?

I agree with Jay on this one: they are most likely trying to build some Word of Mouth around their new blend, bringing attention to themselves and their re-focus on coffee.  Good for them for getting the word out.  Now let’s see if it works! 

Go check it out, and let us know what you think about this “celebration of Pikes Place Market”.  Is the customer experience enhanced with the aroma of fresh coffee?  Does it taste better?  While you are having your coffee, go online and learn more about Word of Mouth by joining Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba’s  Society for Word of Mouth (or SWOM).  I did, and it looks to be a great resource!

(Photo credit: muha04)

Posted in Marketing, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 5 – MyStarbucksIdea

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 28, 2008

paper-cutouts.jpg Part 5 of the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project with Jay Ehret.  Read Jay’s latest post chronicling his recent trip to Brazil and the contrast between Brazilian coffee houses and Starbucks (what a contrast!).   Obrigada, Jay!  (Thank you, in Portuguese.)

Shortly after my last Starbucks update, Starbucks announced “…new strategic initiatives to transform and innovate the customer experience” at their shareholder meeting.  For a quick run-down of those ideas, see Jay Ehret’s post on the announcement.  For a more in-depth analysis of those ideas, and whether they will really impact the customer, see John Moore’s post.

Controversy

The most controversial initiative is Starbucks foray into the world of social media: MyStarbucksIdea.  Launched about 10 days ago, it is a website where customers can go to share ideas for improving Starbucks, vote on ideas from other customers, and then hear back from Starbucks on which ideas they are considering and/or taking on board.  There are a group of Starbucks partners (employees) who are responding to and interacting with these ideas on the site. 

Is It the Right Thing?

From reading several blog posts on this subject since the launch of MyStarbucksIdea, many bloggers seem to feel this is merely a PR move for Starbucks.  To get a feel for who is griping about it and who likes it, see the AdAge article citing references to MyStarbucksIdea from both camps.  Mack Collier of The Viral Garden wrote a great post comparing MyStarbucksIdeas to Dell’s IdeaStorm.  Mack writes,

“The name is different, but Starbucks has unveiled a new suggestion site that looks an awful lot like Dell’s Ideastorm community. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

I agree, Mack!  Dell’s community has been very good at getting their customers to engage and present new lines of thinking.  Dell has been very good at listening to them and responding quickly.

We can spend a lot of time debating whether this was a good idea for Starbucks or whether they went about it the right way.  It may even have been better for them to engage with customers by doing more listening and commenting through other mechanisms that already exist.  Mack goes on to say something similar in his next post on the subject of Starbucks and customer engagement:

“What would be more effective for Starbucks, to start the MyStarbucksIdea where 48 Starbucks employees attempt to engage Starbucks customers via the site, or to have those same 48 employees attempt to engage SBUX customers OFF the site, a la Richard Binhammer? I would lean toward having 48 employees reach out to customers online in THEIR space if those 48 did even half as well in engaging and responding to customers as Richard does.”

What is the Goal?

Perhaps it depends on the goal of this new online community for Starbucks.  Lately, I have been reading my advance copy of Charlene Li and Josh Bernhoff’s fabulous new book Groundswell(review coming soon here on Customers Rock!), and in it they discuss five goals for companies that want to engage with customers via social media: listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing.  I have assumed Starbucks created MyStarbucksIdea for some combination of listening to customers as well as for co-creating (embracing in Groundswell terminology) with customers.  

Starbucks can easily listen in to customer conversations many places online (and offline) to understand what customers want.  They can also engage in many places online to continue a conversation.  By creating the MyStarbucksIdea site, Starbucks sets the expectation that they want to enable a conversation, join in, and connect customers with each other.  Charlene makes a suggestion on her blog that Starbucks should better close the loop on these interactions.  She says,

“Close the loop, and you’ve not only got me hooked, but I’ll walk the extra block in NYC or drive the extra mile to go to you rather than another coffee house.”  

When I started this “Re-experiencing Starbucks” project with Jay Ehret, I sent feedback to Starbucks via their website, some good and some not.  They responded to the good but ignored the rest.  Hopefully on “their turf”, they will be open to all ideas and close the loop on the feedback they are receiving.

Customers are being very active on the site, adding quite a few ideas and doing a lot of voting on others.  The main ideas on the site right now are dominated with requests for free “loyalty” drinks as well as free WiFi.  These are consistent with some of the pain points expressed by customersin a recent global survey, highlighted by Meikah over at Customer Relations, where price was the number one pain point.  Perhaps once Starbucks gets past these long-desired customer concerns, the conversation will blossom into other areas as yet unexplored. 

What do you think?

Go check out the site and let me know what you think.  Is this site a good way for Starbucks to keep an ear open to customer requests?  Will it be effective for co-creating with customers?  Do you think it will succeed?

Starbucks – are you listening?

Related Customers Rock! posts in the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project series:

Re-Experiencing Starbucks

Part 2: Transformation Starting

Part 3: The Training

Part 4: Little Things

Posted in Community, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Marketing, social media, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 4 – Little Things

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 16, 2008

starbucks-sign-march-medium.jpg Part 4 of the ongoing Starbucks Project with Jay Ehret and myself.  Here is Jay’s fourth installment about getting involved at Starbucks – he is!

Seven Bold Moves 

Recently, Howard Schultz, CEO at Starbucks, sent out his 10th Transformation Agenda, describing to Starbucks partners (employees) the results of a “global summit” of Starbucks leaders.  One of the outcomes was this list of Seven Bold Moves that Starbucks will be making as they re-focus on customers, coffee, and partners:

1.      Be the undisputed coffee authority

2.      Re-engage and inspire our partners

3.      Re-ignite our emotional attachment with customers

4.      Expand our global presence — while making each store the heart of the local neighborhood

5.      Be a leader in ethical sourcing and environmental impact

6.      Create innovative growth platforms worthy of our coffee

7.      Deliver a sustainable economic model

Emotional Attachment

I love the third “bold move”, re-igniting emotional attachment with customers.  I have seen new branding at all Starbucks to make it look more human-inspired and friendly.  Over the coming weeks and months, Jay and I (and others) will be watching and looking for the building of emotional attachment and relationships.

On the Big Biz Show this past week, along with the co-hosts Sully and Russ, I asked listeners whether they had seen any changes at their local Starbucks.  One woman called in to share that the customer service had definitely improved at her Starbucks.  I have also seen improvements along these lines, and in talking to baristas here in San Diego, they said much of the recent training was focused on how to take care of customers.

My husband recently had to wait for Starbucks to brew his decaf coffee, which he didn’t find out until after he had paid.  The barista apologized and gave him a nice card, good for any drink – complimentary.  Although these cards have been around for awhile, I have never seen one handed out.  Perhaps, in the quest for making the perfect drink for customers, Starbucks is encouraging these to be used more frequently (baristas, any comment on that?).

See the Difference

The most telling sign that Starbucks is putting laser focus on the customer experience will be whether we can truly see a difference.  Slowly but surely, I believe I am seeing little things.  What about you?  Have you seen any difference in the Starbucks Experience?  Send me your thoughts to becky at petraconsultinggroup dot com, or leave a comment.  I will catalog the changes in my next Starbucks update.

(Picture credit: me, taken at our local Starbucks – spelling of the word “Caramel” may be intentional…?!)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Marketing, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 1, 2008

coffeecup.jpg Special Project: Jay Ehret of The Marketing Spot and Becky Carroll of Customers Rock!

Howard Schultz has returned to Starbucks and promises a return to the customer experience. We salute that announcement. Starbucks holds a special place in our heart and we want to do our part to help Howard get it right.

Inspired by John Moore’s 2007 Manifesto : WHAT MUST STARBUCKS DO?, Jay and I have decided to work with Howard (even though he hasn’t hired us) to help Starbucks improve their customer experience in 2008.

Today we begin a series of posts that will continue throughout the year. We will analyze the current Starbucks experience, make suggestions for improvement, and then compare at the end of the year. You are invited to contribute with your comments and suggestions; let us know what you see/don’t see changing about the customer experience at the Starbucks you visit!

Jay already has his post up, which includes a letter to Howard and some commentary.   Here is my take on the “state of the Starbucks experience.”

It’s All About Customers

I am very glad to hear Mr. Schultz’s plan to put customers at the center of business decisions.  Starbucks used to focus on being what they called the “third place” – not home, not work, but somewhere in-between the two where people could come to relax and talk.  When I lived in the UK, I found something similar in their pubs.  That was where people went to relax, have something to drink or eat, and meet up with friends. 

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Starbucks over the coming months.  I understand that more details are coming in March.  In the meantime, here are some Customers Rock! observations about the current Starbucks experience in my neck of the woods, San Diego.

Kudos Here

One of the best things about the Starbucks experience is the baristas. 

At every Starbucks I have ever gone into, the employees are always friendly, smiling, and helpful.  They know the names of their regulars and chat with them upon sight.  They are patient at explaining things patrons don’t understand (there is quite a lingo to learn).  They always listen to kids when they place their orders, viewing them as important (and future!) customers.  They are polite and quick to help when there is a problem (like a spill), never making someone feel bad.  They apologize when there is a wait and thank you for their business.  Starbucks, your employees rock!

They have a nice atmosphere with music and soft, comfy chairs in one area.

We always scope out those soft armchairs when we go in.  They make the environment feel friendly and more like being in someone’s living room.  (Not all Starbucks have this, though.)  The background music is great, and it is kind of fun being able to see that on an iPod now (for possible purchase).

Room for Improvement Here

Improve the store navigation.

Starbucks, like other companies, has expanded their offerings beyond coffee and drinks.  I find that this is often difficult to do well.  In the case of Starbucks, their aisles are now so full of displays of coffee mugs, espresso machines, and bagged coffee that it can become difficult to navigate the store.

starbucks-line.jpg For example, I took this picture today during the morning rush.  It was a little hard not to knock into some of the display items (a major concern for young moms with their toddlers) on my way to place my order in this queue.  Harder still was navigating my way back out!  I couldn’t go down this line in reverse, and on the other side of the display were the ordering stations.

One look into a Starbucks of late appears to be more of a retail shop than a coffee shop.  And people hate being sold to all the time.

Encourage people to stay awhile.

More comfortable chairs (only a few of those aforementioned soft chairs are in each store, and some don’t have any) would be great.  Also, if Starbucks is looking to encourage those with laptops, slightly larger tables would be handy (hard to put a laptop, coffee, and pastry on the table at the same time).  One of my local Starbucks has a nice laptop station, like you might find in a library, with a long table which could accommodate multiple laptops.  It has a power strip down the middle and some low lighting.

Jay also mentioned the high cost of WiFi, which I won’t go into here but do agree with as it is a great way to get customers to stay longer and buy more.

If employees aren’t too busy serving other customers or cleaning/prepping for later, they could offer to clear away cups, etc, for current patrons while they are wiping down tables.  Just a nice touch to consider.

Decide what to do about the food.

I have seen press that states Starbucks will no longer offer the breakfast sandwiches because their aroma overtakes the wonderful smell of coffee.  I haven’t personally noticed that, but I have noticed that most pastries are very dry.  Choose the food you will offer (don’t forget to ask your customers what they want!) and do it well.  Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

Most importantly, spend more time finding out what customers want.

What are the Starbucks customers’ needs and preferences?  Mr. Schultz has referred to comments from baristas as a way he gets input on what works and what doesn’t, which is great!  Talking to the front line employees is very helpful in finding out what to improve.  However, I would like to see more effort spent on finding out what customers like by asking them directly.  Perhaps Starbucks is doing a lot of this already (I do know they sometimes hand out special survey codes with receipts), but it isn’t being discussed right now in the press releases. 

Talk to the different types of customers you get and see what each type would like to have.  For example, those young moms might like to have a changing table in the restroom.  Students, business people, and travelers will all have their specific needs as well.  Who is the Starbucks target/ideal customer?   Starbucks shouldn’t cater to everyone, but they should definitely understand their most loyal customers – and take care of them.  If they can do that, there won’t be a need to offer $1 cups of mini-coffee or worry about losing customers to other chains.

What do you see? 

That’s it for now.  Jay and I will be keeping an eye on how the Starbucks experience changes over these upcoming months and will be reporting back what we observe.  Please send in your observations, comments, and suggestions.  Alternatively, comment on your blog and let us know; we’ll refer to your post with a link.  I have seen some good links on Glenn Ross’s blog, including a reference to a barista blog.

Let’s help Starbucks get back to offering a fabulous experience!

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Marketing, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , | 26 Comments »

 
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