Best Practices in Client Experience Strategy: Starbucks

I was recently traveling and in need of a quiet, comfortable place to sit and work for several hours.  As in all cities across our great country, coffee shops thrived on every corner; my choices were varied and enticing.  Instinctively, however, I sought out and found that familiar green signage.  My spirit was buoyed by the sheer presence of a Starbucks store not because the chairs were more comfortable or because the coffee was hotter, but by the promise of a welcome.  I knew that even though I was far away from home, this was one place where I could find that sense of belonging I needed to enjoy my day.

Starbucks leadership has recognized from the beginning that they aren’t just selling coffee; they are selling the Starbucks Experience.  As customers, we may not recognize the reason we return, but this experience invites us to a comfortable setting where we are valued as unique individuals and where a human connection is made.

This last, the personal relationship, is often the most important aspect of connecting us with the Starbucks brand and sets Starbucks apart from the competition.  From its unique corporate culture, down to the values of its partners (employees), Starbucks strives to inspire and nurture the human spirit through the “Five Ways of Being”:

  • Be Welcoming: Offer everyone a sense of belonging.
  • Be Genuine: Connect, discover, respond.
  • Be Knowledgeable: Love what you do. Share it with others.
  • Be Considerate: Take care of yourself, each other, and the environment.
  • Be Involved: In the store, in the company, and in the community.

Starbucks’ focus is on delighting customers by the consistency of the service they receive no matter what neighborhood store they visit.  In a simple, but ingenious, way to enforce this concept, the guiding principles are outlined on a pamphlet referred to as the Green Apron Book.  Each partner in every location carries a copy, blending the same Starbucks Experience into a worldwide culture on a daily basis.

The commitment to their branded service experience is so deep that in February 2008, management closed all 7,100 stores for three hours (that’s 21,300 hours of lost revenue!) in order to retrain its baristas on creating the right type of customer service.

In his book, “The Starbucks Experience”, Joseph Michelli explains it this way, “By holding out a standard of legendary service….Starbucks leadership links each individual store to a common objective.  Consistency means that customers will find safety in the company, its product, and its service.  They can trust Starbucks…”.

Whether your organization has franchises, licensed retailers or branches… great businesses deliver superior service in a manner that is predictable.  Why is this important for your bottom-line?  Provided by the employees at every location, reliable service will create an emotional connection for your customers, with trust, safety, and comfort being the prevailing feelings.  These feelings will ultimately compel them to share their experience with others. Thus, a loyal base of customers is built on providing a network of high quality, consistent customer experiences.

I have become a loyal Starbucks customer not because they offer the most competitive prices or the most options, but because I can count on them no matter where I am.  Can you say the same about your branch network?

If you’d like to learn more, check out “The Starbucks Experience” by Joseph A. Michelli or “Tribal Knowledge” by John Moore.

Watch this brief video about what it takes to give truly special customer service:


Company Profile

Name: Starbucks Corporation

Industry: Hotels, Restaurants & Leisure

CEO: Howard Schultz

2009 Employees: 142,000

2009 Sales: $9.8 billion