Starbucks and Store Closings: How will it affect the experience? Update 8
Posted by Becky Carroll on July 3, 2008
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:
“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.