Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 6 – The Card
Posted by Becky Carroll on May 12, 2008
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).
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:
(Photo credit: mightykenny)