Customers Rock!

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

Archive for February, 2008

Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 3 – The Training

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 29, 2008

starbucks_photos_001-medium.jpg Part 3 of the ongoing Starbucks Project with Jay Ehret and myself.  Here is Jay’s third installment.

As I mentioned in my last Starbucks post, there was a training this week for Starbucks partners (employees).  All US-based Starbuckswere shut down from 5:30 – 8:30 pm local time.  A sign was on the door of my local Starbucks, letting customers know they would be closed – but would open again at 6 am the next morning!  Some bloggers have written that this is nothing more than a PR stunt.  I set out to find out the thoughts from those who work at Starbucks.

I asked the cashier at my local Starbucks what she thought about the training coming up that night; she said she hoped it wouldn’t go over the allotted time.  When I asked her what it was about, she said something like this:  “Well, I guess Starbucks didn’t do that well last year, so they brought back Howard Schultz to try and help.  We are doing this training on the basics of coffee, steaming milk, and customer service, I guess.”

Interesting.  A little while later (yes, I bought a mocha – decaf – and sat down to do some work), I had the chance to speak to her store manager.  When I asked her what the training was about, she said something like this: “Training takes the full 3 hours but should be fun.  For an example of what we are doing, we are showing partners how to steam milk in a smaller pitcher (individual) as it tastes better – but it could cause longer lines.  We also want people who work here to be part of this change.  We want them to be inspiring for our customers, to be passionate about coffee.  We are putting up a sign about making the perfect drink – consistency has been lacking store to store.  We want happy employees to make happy customers!”

I asked her if I could come back the next morning to take a picture of the sign (see top of post).  She had all her employees sign it, too!

The Morning After

I went in at around 8:30 am on Wednesday, February 27 to see how things went.  As predicted, the lines were longer – almost to the door.  However, they moved very quickly, and no one seemed upset.  (I had suggested that if long lines were a concern, Starbucks could tell people they were working on a new process to make the perfect drink, thus properly setting customer expectations.) 

I ordered the same drink – decaf mocha – to see how it compared.  I asked the cashier how the training went the night before.

“Oh, it was a lot of fun!  We reviewed some key information about making drinks, and we had a section on customer service.  They were all basic ideas, but they are very important ones!”  So far, so good.

As I knew it would take awhile to wait for my drink, I set up my work and then went to retrieve it.  The barista looked a little frazzled.

“Getting used to the new process, huh?”, I asked.  “Yes, it is a little crazy today!”, he stated, surrounded by 5 or 6 small stainless-steel pitchers with thermometers sticking out of them. 

I took my drink and had a sip.

Very good decaf mocha.  It tasted a little stronger than usual, which meant to me that they were all probably supposed to be that strong. 

It will be fun to try another Starbucks in the next day or so to see how consistent the drinks are now (I will also try out my other favorite drink, Passion Iced Tea, sweetened, to see how that one is doing.  See, you can drink things other than coffee at Starbucks, too!)

A Change is in the Air

The changes are subtle but are starting to be a bit more evident (see fellow Age of Conversation author  Cam Beck’s post on Starbucks about using names – again).  (Cam – the Starbucks here have always used my name, so I didn’t notice that difference, but it was probably part of the customer service training!)

Let’s see how it goes over the next few weeks!

Others blogging about this

Several bloggers have picked up on the project from Jay and I.  Go check out the following for their experiences and points of view:

Doug Meacham from NextUp: “Starbucks, The Way I See It, Part 1”

Steve Iwersen: “Starbucks Leadership Says It’s Time to Close the Doors”

Paul Schwartz from CustomerU: “What is the Starbucks Experience?”  and “The Starbucks Customer FEEDBACK Experience”

Meikah Delid from CustServ: “Helping Starbucks Improve the Customer Experience – The First Step”  and “Helping Starbucks Improve the Customer Experience, the Second Step” (updates March 5) and “The Third Step”

Maria Palma from CustomersAreAlways: “The Starbucks Project”

CK from CK’s Blog: “A Chain by Any Other Name”

David Morse from CustomerOp: “Can Starbucks Get Its Groove Back?”

Valeria Maltoni from Conversation Agent: Customer Service is the Conduit and FastCompany blog of the same title

Others have added ideas and comments into my first two posts:

Phil Gerbyshak, Lewis Green, Esteban Kolsky, Kami Huyse, CB Whittemore, Suzanne Obermire, Peter Fankhaenel, and blogs CustomerServiceVooDoo and Boring Market blog.

Thanks, everyone! (Did I miss anyone?  My stats haven’t been consistent at showing links…)

Plus – here is a list compiled by Jay of others not directly related to this project:

– John Moore got this all started last year with his Manifesto : WHAT MUST STARBUCKS DO? And this week adds Starbucks should do more of this…

– Laura Ries: Backwards is the new Forwards.

– Skip Lineberg at Maple Creative: Starbucks: Did They Jump the Shark?

– Scott Howard at Collective Wisdom: Starbucks History Lesson.

The Venti Vacancyby Franki Durbin at Durbin Media.

Starbucks Searches For Its Soul by Bruce Temkin at Customer Experience Matters

Can Howard Schultz Get Starbucks Back Its ‘Mojo’? from Jeanne Bliss on Marketing Profs Daily Fix.

Starbucks, Sharper Image and Tao of Focus from Stephen Denny at Note to CMO

(Photo credit: me!)


Posted in Customer experience, Starbucks Project | 6 Comments »

Which Customer Matters Most?

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 25, 2008

goofy.jpg In a recent post, I gave an example of doing little things to grow a customer relationship.  It was a good reminder about using long-term rather than short-term thinking when it comes to customers.   An individual could look small now but be coming into a growth period due to their lifestage/change in status.  A small business customer today could acquire (or be acquired) tomorrow and become very valuable.

When I was with Peppers and Rogers Group, we spent a lot of time helping clients figure out how to measure this very thing, as well as creating action plans for each customer value segment.  Don Peppers and Martha Rogers also wrote a great book about this called Return on Customer.  I highly recommend it!

In a down economy, increasing the value of existing customers may be a critical success factor.   Here are some questions to ask yourself as you think about your customer base:

  • Are we focused on growing our business organically through increasing share of wallet with each customer?  

Expanding business with existing customers is often the easiest way to grow.

  • Are we looking for ways to get our community of customers engaged with us to the point where they become “passionistas” for our brand, sharing their enthusiasm with others?  

Brand ambassadors can do more for sales than our own marketing departments.

  • Are we doing something as simple as thanking our existing customers for their continued business – without trying to sell them something? 

Whenever I speak to groups, I always get feedback on how many are making a point to simply thank their customers.  Most aren’t!

As on most Mondays, I was a guest today on the Big Biz Show, a nationally-syndicated radio program.  I was asked which company I considered to be tops at customer service.   I answered, “The Disney resorts.”  Each Cast Member (ie. employee) at a Disney resort goes out of their way to make each moment magical for guests (visitors).  I have had many wonderful experiences myself at Disney resorts, including an experience this past fall where I was overwhelmed by the generosity of a Disney Cast Member.

Over fifty years ago, Disney was one of the first to put customer service first and foremost; today, the Disney resorts are often viewed as a standard for other organizations.

Companies, such as Disney, that are held up as shining examples of customer service or customer focus usually do things a little differently.  They view their customer service department as a key contact point with customers – and measure their agents on customer satisfaction rather than talk time.  They put the customer experience at the center of their strategy.  They hire for people-skills first and foremost.  They empower employees to do the right thing for the customer.   They set expectations properly – then exceed them.  And they consider each interaction with a customer to be critical to the brand experience… 

Because you never know who will be your most valuable customer next month – or next year.

(Image credit:solarseven)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer strategy | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

In it for the long term

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 21, 2008

fallen-shoes.jpg Where do you prioritize long-term customer relationships?  Customers Rock! companies look at every customer interaction as another “deposit” in the relationship account.  Companies that aren’t focused on their customers as a growth strategy view every interaction as money.

My older son and I had a great experience last week on what happened to be Valentine’s Day here in the USA.  My son has long been a customer of the local skateboarding shop, Utility Board Supply, which sells “skating” supplies and clothing.  Many of his friends also go there to buy clothes or shoes (and if you know anyone that skateboards, you know how quickly holes seem to develop in those clothes and shoes!). 

We met Mike, the store’s manager, about one year ago when we were returning a pair of jeans to the store.  These new jeans had quickly developed a hole near the front pocket, and I was dissatisfied with the quality of the fabric.  Although Mike explained to me that these holes were common with skaters, as this is where they put their cell phones (which create holes from the inside of the pocket as they skate), he took back the jeans no questions asked.  (Apology to Mike – all of my son’s jeans now have the same hole, you were right!)  As a result of the great way we were treated, we kept shopping at Utility for my son’s jeans, t-shirts, and shoes (he likes the brand Fallen the best).

Fast forward to this year, Valentine’s Day.  My son had dropped off his new Utility-brand skateboard with Mike to be assembled while he went to a dentist appointment.  After the appointment, we went to pick up the board and saw Mike busy with a sales rep from, wouldn’t you know, Fallen Shoes.  They were looking at upcoming styles, and Mike was trying to decide which ones to stock for the summer/fall.  He saw my son and promptly asked him to come over and check out the shoes.  “Which ones look best?  Which ones do you like?”

Of course, I started talking to Mike and Rich, the Fallen Shoes rep, saying how helpful it must be to get live customer input.  Rich explained that they are always seeking customer feedback, as it is very difficult in the fashion and shoe industry to predict what will be popular in 9-12 months (it takes quite a while to design and manufacture a new style).  My son was thrilled to have been asked for his input, and he was really checking out the new styles.  He was also wearing his newest pair of Fallen shoes which we had just bought from Utility a few weeks before (the last pair he wore out completely – holes in the bottom, on the sides and top, etc.).

The Fallen rep quietly asked Mike a question (I had a feeling what it might be), and then asked my son his shoe size.  Rich then went out to his truck for a moment, came back with a new pair of Fallen shoes, in my son’s size, and handed them to him saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”  My son was floored, and he profusely thanked Mike and Rich.  He has since told everyone he knows and everyone he can think of about his experience and the free shoes he got.  I know the word has spread throughout his friends, as well as to the parents of those kids.

We saw Mike again later that day and asked him what Rich had whispered to him.  He said he asked him whether my son ever bought Fallen Shoes from Mike.  Mike answered yes, and  you know the rest of the story.

A simple act of kindness.  A free pair of shoes.  A customer for life – and now an advocate for Utility and Fallen Shoes.  Mike and Rich were thinking about their customers in the long term, not in the short term.  They were thinking about what positive word of mouth will do for a company’s marketing efforts.  Mike and Rich – you guys rock!

How can you delight your customers?  Are you listening to them on a regular basis, in a planned fashion?  Sometimes, just being asked is all a customer needs to feel important.

Want more?  Go listen to this podcast from Church of the Customer about customer evangelism at Maker’s Mark and how they reach out to customers.  (Thanks to Mack Collier at Viral Garden for the heads up on this one.)

(Photo credit: Fallen website, a photo of Tony Cervantes’ Chief shoes)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Marketing | 16 Comments »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Transformation Starting

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 15, 2008

sbucks-photo-cups.jpg Part 2 in the ongoing project “Re-Experiencing Starbucks”, with Jay Ehret.

This past Monday, Starbucks issued two “Transformation Agenda Communications” about some of the changes it is making in its effort renew the Starbucks experience.  You may have heard about the first one – free WiFi.  This is described in Howard Schultz’s communication in this way:

“Over the past couple of weeks, I have spoken with you about our plans to transform our company and to be laser focused on our customers. Today, I am pleased to share with you another action that will enrich the Starbucks Experience through innovation.”

I love the language used here: “be laser-focused on our customers”.  Many of you left comments on the last post, which introduced the Starbucks experience project, and mentioned you would like to see free WiFi at Starbucks (Jay also mentioned it in his first Starbucks post).  So it seems this is a frequently-requested item at the cafes!  This will affect me in this way: it will drive me to go and register my Starbucks Card, as those with Starbucks Cards will get the two free hours of WiFi (the rest of you will pay $3.99 (I believe), which is still less than you would pay now with their current service provider).   Look for this in the spring of this year – I will be!

I also like that Mr. Schultz is offering complimentary AT&T WiFi accounts to Starbucks partners (employees) for them to use at the store.  This is a great way to help build up partner morale.  Remember, taking care of employees helps you take care of customers!

Along those lines, you may not have heard about the second Transformation Agenda Communication: Starbucks will be conducting a company-wide partner training here in the U.S. about espresso. 

“As part of our ongoing efforts to transform the company and renew our focus on the customer, we have announced an historic in-store education and training event for our more than 135,000 store partners across the United States. We will close each of our nearly 7,100 company-operated stores in the U.S. on Tuesday, February 26 at 5:30 p.m., local time, to conduct a nationwide hands-on espresso training experience, designed to energize partners and transform the customer experience. Stores with evening hours will re-open at 8:30 p.m.

Our unprecedented level of commitment to and investment in our people will provide them with the tools and resources they need to exceed the expectations of our customers. We believe that this is a bold demonstration of our commitment to our core and a reaffirmation of our coffee leadership.”

Starbucks is focusing on putting its employees front and center in their effort to transform the customer experience.  This is wise, as Starbucks partners are the face of the company and help craft the Starbucks experience with each interaction.  As I mentioned in my last post, the Starbucks baristas are one of the most positive parts of the current Starbucks experience.  I applaud Starbucks for taking time to focus on them.

And I will be in my local Starbucks on February 27 to see what they thought about it!

Be sure to drop over to Jay’s blog and check out his opinions via a video post on acoustics at Starbucks.  In the same post, as part of his Power to the Small Business podcast series, Jay was also nice enough to record an interview with me, talking about customer experience, customer service, and of course, the Starbucks project.  Thanks, Jay!

(Photo credit: T Carroll)

Posted in Customer experience, Starbucks Project | 13 Comments »

How do I Love Thee?

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 14, 2008

hearts-and-hands.jpg Let me count the ways…

Love is in the air today as it is Valentine’s Day in the USA.  Here at Customers Rock!, we think about the ways we let our customers know we care about and appreciate them.  Some of us are not very good at that (or so you have told me), and we need reminders to make it happen.  Consider this your reminder – go out and let your best customers know you appreciate them and their business!

Of course, this act of recognition should be part of your larger customer strategy – you know, the one which outlines how you want to strengthen your customer relationships.  If you are a little short on ideas, go check out today’s post by Toby Bloomberg at Diva Marketing Blog.  Toby has enlisted many of her friends (me included – thanks, Toby!) to share how they build relationships with vendors/clients.  Some common threads seem to be the following:

  • Communicate openly, honestly, and frequently
  • Seek out the needs of the other person – then listen closely and take action!
  • Look for the win-win at all times
  • Build a personal relationship where possible
  • Be willing to give more than you receive; don’t always look for something in return
  • Shut up and listen!
  • Exceed expectations

I would add one more to the list – follow up with customers/clients at times when you aren’t trying to sell anything… like today.

Now go do it!

(Photo credit: Drx)

Posted in Customer loyalty, Customer strategy | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Social Media and Customer Retention

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 12, 2008

ducks.jpg There is a lot of conversation going on about social media.  Companies are asking questions – should I create a corporate blog?  What can I do to get more people to our MySpace/Facebook page?  What works, and what doesn’t?

Matt Dickman has a great post on how to use social media in customer service using Twitter.   I met someone from Twitter at the Customer Service is the New Marketing conference last week, and many companies are starting to use it in their customer service.  Here is the overview of Matt’s take on it for anyone considering the use of this tool:

“Twitter is the ultimate customer service tool. It’s live, instantaneous, community driven, open, two-way and multi-way, unfiltered and predictive. This is, however, only for the most advanced, customer-forward companies to attempt to use. You definitely need a black belt in customer service ninja techniques to do this well.”

Should companies use social media as a marketing tool for customers?  Greg Verdino, in his blog post called “Is your brand a social media loozr?”, shares an insightful quote from Seana Mulcahy

“Social media marketing is not just throwing up a page on MySpace, Facebook or any other social media site for that matter. You’ve seen some of the biggest U.S. agencies do that for their clients over the past year or so. These folks have patted themselves on the back for being trailblazers.

Newsflash: That is not trailblazing, that is ignorant.”

Like Greg, I have also long stated that social media should be one more way in which a company reaches out to engage with its customers.  It should not necessarily replace current communication channels, but it should be incorporated into them based on how your customers like to respond.  If they are online a lot, social media might be a good way to interact with them, especially if they are already using it in their personal lives.  How do you know?  Ask them! 

Have Any Good Examples?

Along those lines, I am asking you, my readers, for some input.  I am preparing a talk (unpaid) for my local chapter of the DMA, and I am looking for some examples of companies who have successfully used social media/marketing techniques to keep customers engaged.  I would like to know the name of the company, whether it’s customers are businesses or consumers, a link or screenshot of the social media used, and how it is helping customer retention.  If you are a customer of a company who does a great job with this, or a company that is seeing good results, please either email me, becky at, or leave me a comment on this post.

Thanks – I will report back what I find out to all of you!

(Photo credit: duck to duck to duck… originally uploaded by A Different Perspective)

Posted in Customer loyalty, Customer service, Marketing, social media | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Four by Four: About me

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 8, 2008

ice-cream.jpg I like to participate in these types of memes that fly around in blogs, as I usually learn more about my fellow bloggers – and my readers learn more about me!  Peter Kim tagged me on his re-make of the “8 Things” meme (see my original answers here) called 4×4: four things from four categories.  Here are my four by four:

Four Jobs I’ve Had:

1. Ice cream scooper (like Peter!) at Morrow’s Nut House (yes, I know, that explains a lot!).

2. Researcher/computer graphics programmer at NASA Ames Research Center, working with Cray supercomputers.

3. On-line Technical Support engineer for HP; had fun duplicating customer issues on HP 1000 real-time computer systems.

4. Cub Scout den leader (volunteer role – needed lots of energy for this one!).

Four Places I’ve Been:

1. Kauai, Hawaii (during the “Big Earthquake” in Northern California, 1989 – horrifying to watch the national network news depict your hometown as a total disaster zone from afar)

2. Olso, Norway (to meet the wonderful family of our former au pair)

3. Veracruz, Mexico (as an exchange student)

4. San Gimignano, Italy (for vacation – beautiful medieval walled town with many wonderful towers – and the biggest grapes I’ve ever seen!)

Four Music Artists I’m Listening to Right Now:

1. Beethoven (an oldie but a goodie!)

2. Jack Johnson (easy to listen to – acoustic/adult alternative)

3. Newsboys (Christian pop)

4. Handel (another oldie but goodie, and relaxing to boot!)

Four Favorite Foods:

1. Ice cream (almost any flavor!)

2. Belgian chocoloate

3. Seafood – best are the shellfish

4. Almond Roca

OK, who wants to join in on 4×4?  I’d like to hear from CB Whittemore, Doug Meacham, Maria Palma, my new friend Brian Solis, and Jay Ehret (I know, that is five people, not four, but I believe CB was just tagged by Ann Handley).  If you’ve already answered for some of these categories, here were the other 5 that I didn’t use: people who email me regularly, TV shows I DVR, places I’d rather be right now, people I think will respond, and things I look forward to this year.

(Photo credit: solarseven)

Posted in Memes | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

How to Win at Customer Service

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 5, 2008

stand-out.jpg Yesterday, I ran a workshop called “Customer Experience: The Intersection of Marketing and Customer Service” as part of the Customer Service is the New Marketing conference.  One of my exercises asked the attendees to share their best customer service experience from the last year or so.  The attendees had a really hard time coming up with good experiences! 

Stop right now and think about the best customer service experience you have had in the past year or so.  Can you come up with one?

It is much easier to remember the poor customer service experiences than it is to remember the good ones.  We tend to rant and rave when things go wrong.  When things go right, we tend to take it for granted.  That is, unless the service is spectacular – then, we remember it and tell our story to everyone.  For example, one of my workshop attendees from Colorado shared a story about her taxi ride into San Francisco from the airport.  In a nutshell, it was horrible!  On her way to the conference the next day, another cab driver asked her about her trip so far.  After she shared about her poor taxi experience, he turned off the meter and gave her a free tour city highlights before turning the meter back on and bringing her to the conference.  She was WOWed!

“Good customer service” is just the price of admission.  In order to win at customer service, we need to set ourselves apart by being exceptional.  We need to WOW our customers, not by performing random acts of kindness but by executing a strategy to exceed our customers’ expectations. 

How do we create this strategy?  Over the next few days, I will be sharing some of the tips I heard at the conference from companies that are exceptional, such as and Virgin.  I will also be adding in tips from my experiences working with companies seeking to win at customer service.  Feel free to send in your own tips and ideas.  Let’s go!

(Photo credit: Elnur)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service | Tagged: , , | 13 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 »