Customers Rock!

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

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!)

6 Responses to “Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 3 – The Training”

  1. Thanks for the link Becky! The fruits of Howard Shultz’s labor will be seen in the months to come, I guarantee it. Customers will come to Starbucks for the high-quality beverages and genuine customer service. Starbucks glory days are ahead of them.

  2. Great article on what is actually happening at the Starbucks coalface. Howard Shultz’s has a hard job ahead with brands like McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts moving into the more profitable coffee market.

    I think Starbucks has to focus on high-quality coffee and a great coffee experience, but I suspect they’re going to lose market share.

    As a brit living in Australia, seeing these three iconic brands fighting it out is great to watch.

  3. Way to go, Becky! Expect more Starbucks observations and lessons from me. Keep at it everyone!🙂

  4. This looks like a positive direction for Starbucks. Perhaps this training has allowed them to reinforce what the coffee house originally stood for and its perspectives on customer satisfaction and experience. Where I come from, Starbucks still reigns supreme over other coffee shops though.

  5. I was at my local Starbucks this morning, and saw an almost identical sign (Our Promise)… same content, different hand writing and names obviously. I spend the two minutes that I waited for my coffee reading all the names and the other new (human created-looking) signage. What a great way to personalize the coffee buying experience.

  6. Jolene Ehrer said

    Well maybe this one doesn’t count since it was a Starbucks inside a Barnes and Noble bookstore, (they don’t take Starbucks gift cards either, bummer)..
    Okay my experience… I ordered my usual cappacino with vanilla flavor (they don’t carry irish cream anymore)…. My sis order a mocha something or other. Well the barrista or whatever you call him (spaced out dude is my name for him)… made our drinks set them on the counter and said, “You know what?, I think I forgot the espresso)…. So he makes them all over again (while a line was forming by the cashier)…. I observed: he had no idea how to foam milk…, and I know he didn’t add the vanilla as it didn’t take like vanilla. And he added the espresso (coffee) AFTER he put the milk in… Have you EVER heard of such a fiasco.. Oh yes this was in the B & N store off Dysart in Avondale, AZ… My advice is if you see this dude get some bottled water or something… He doesn’t know beans about coffe…

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