Customers Rock!

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

Posts Tagged ‘Howard Schultz’

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)

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