>reExperience Starbucks #3: Are The Baristas Better?


The reExperience Starbucks Project is a combined effort of Customers Rock!, The Marketing Spot and the blogging community. Howard Schultz has promised to revive the Starbucks customer experience and we want to help.

See Becky Carroll’s new entry: Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 3 – The Training

Last week I swung by the Hewitt, Texas Starbucks location. I told the female barista that I didn’t know what I wanted but that I was feeling adventurous. What did she suggest? A skinny cinnamon dolce latte was her carefully considered opinion. She asked what name she should put on the cup and I said “Brad Pitt.”

When the drink was ready: “I have skinny cinnamon dolce latte at the bar for Brad Pitt.” It was funny and there were chuckles throughout the store as I strutted to the bar. A couple of minutes later, she called out: “I have a vanilla whip latte for Jennifer Aniston at the bar!” I bet that’s going to tick-off Angelina Jolie.

The Baristas
The baristas are the front line of the Starbucks experience. For the past couple of weeks I have engaged the baristas as much as possible. I wanted to to see how they react and interact with customers. My big question: Are Starbucks employees really any different from employees at other quick-serve food companies?

I’m not sure Howard Schultz had this in mind, but I think the most profound effect of the three-hour closing this week was camaraderie. One employee at my neighborhood Starbucks told me that she loved the training because all store employees were at the store at the same time. She said it was “fun” because the entire crew had never before been all together at one time. The crew bonded and they were united as a team, not a group of employees.

Building a Better Barista
Let’s face it, Starbucks hires its employees from the same employment pool as does Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds. If you really can’t hire employees that are any better than your competitors (and really you can’t), you have to obtain your employee edge in some other way.

  • Train them more thoroughly.
  • Motivate them more empathetically.
  • Instill pride and camaraderie.
  • Create a sense of higher purpose.

Here are a couple of selected quotes from the Howard Schultz Transformation Agenda Communication #8 to employees (and anyone else in the universe with internet access):

“But, as I think about it, there is another perhaps equally important reason why we have scheduled this training. It’s to celebrate who we are.

We are Starbucks. We should be incredibly proud of what we have built. We are the worldwide leader of specialty coffee.”


“We are at our best when we are entrepreneurial and courageous, push for innovation and reject the status quo. We are leaders not followers–we leave that for others.

We are the third place in the lives of millions of our customers. We are the coffee that brings people together every day around the world to foster conversation and community.”

Yes, the closing of stores for training was a brilliant PR move, but it was more than that. Employees read the news too. They hear about declining stock prices, store closings and falling same-store sales. They saw that Howard had to come riding in on his white horse to save the company.

The employee experience may be the most important factor in delivering a remarkable customer experience. More than anyone else, the employees needed Tuesday night and Howard’s training on “the art of espresso.” They needed to know that they were part of something bigger than themselves as individuals. They were part of a historic transformation of the worldwide leader of specialty coffee.

See the first two posts:
A Letter to Howard Schultz at Starbucks
reExperiencing Starbucks: A Double Shot

To keep you busy this weekend, here is a Venti Cup of links to help reExperience Starbucks.

– Off course, John Moore was one of the first to sound off and warn Starbucks last year with his Manifesto : WHAT MUST STARBUCKS DO? This week adds Starbucks should do more of this…

– One of the best posts on the Starbucks situation I’ve read yet, comes from the always insightful Laura Ries: Backwards is the new Forwards.

– Great history lesson from Skip Lineberg at Maple Creative: Starbucks: Did They Jump the Shark?

Starbucks History Lesson from Scott Howard at Collective Wisdom.

– Doug Meacham: “Starbucks, The Way I See It, Part 1”

– Steve Iwersen: “Starbucks Leadership Says It’s Time to Close the Doors”

– Paul Schwartz: “What is the Starbucks Experience?” and “The Starbucks Customer FEEDBACK Experience”

– Meikah Delid: “Helping Starbucks Improve the Customer Experience – The First Step” and “Helping Starbucks Improve the Customer Experience, the Second Step”

– Maria Palma: “The Starbucks Project”

– CK: “A Chain by Any Other Name”

– David Morse: “Can Starbucks Get Its Groove Back?”

The Venti Vacancy by Franki Durbin at Durbin Media.

Starbucks: Where Everbody Pretends To Know Your Name, Again from Cam Beck at Chaos Scenario.

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.

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