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Starbucks, The 3rd Place, and Creating The Ultimate Customer Experience June 10, 2008

Posted by mattdollinger in Customer Sevice, Hometown Chicago, Industry Misconceptions.
Tags: , , ,

So I was sitting in Starbucks this morning across the street from one of our offices, meeting with a couple of agents.  In between meetings I approached the manager (Kelly) to see if she might have a couple of minutes to talk.  I told her that I was interested in finding out about the culture, mentality and training program that Starbucks implemented, and she was happy to talk about it.

The reason I chose Starbucks, was because it has always stood out in my mind as one of those “Experience Entrepreneurs”… highly talked about in Joseph Michelli’s book “The Starbucks Experience“.  It never really was about the coffee to me with Starbucks… When I think about Starbucks, I think about Comfy Chairs, Great Smells, Pretty People and WiFi.  To be honest, if the choice is between Starbucks and a local provider, I will always try to support the little guy.  But I digress… and millions of people across the world frequent this franchise on a daily basis.  Below is a detailed account of what I learned in 15 minutes from a Starbucks Manager named Kelly.

“Starbucks Coffee is the #1 purveyor of coffee in the world.  We are here to educate and enhance the best possible customer experience – Howard Schultz

  •  Starbucks goal is to become the Third Place in our daily lives.  (i.e. Home, Work and Starbucks)  “We want to provide all the comforts of your home and office.  You can sit in a nice chair, talk on your phone, look out the window, surf the web… oh, and drink coffee too,” said Kelly.  (Notice she put “drink coffee” last???)
  • “The idea behind customer service here is to make it one that isn’t just good, we want to make it Great.  If people have a BAD experience, they’ll tell 7 people.  If they have an average experience they’ll tell no one.  If they have a GREAT experience, they’ll tell 2-3.  Making it a great experience though, isn’t just about service.  If they have a problem (bad drink, cracked lid, etc.), we want to do everything to make it right, then and there.”
  • “Our entire training process is learning by example.  We have new employees shadow experienced people to learn how to make the drinks, how to talk with customers, how to interact.  You can’t learn that kind of thing from a book.”
  • “We approach everything in our store from a ‘What I would want’ mentality.  The music, the cleanliness, the service… everything has to be what we would want if we came in as a customer.”
  • “When we look at hiring someone we always ask the question, ‘What does coffee mean to you?’  For some people it’s simply a pick me up in the morning.  For me, who never drank coffee before, it was something that brought people together.  It’s a conversation piece, something that opens the doors between people or allows others to simply lose themselves and relax.”
  • “Good attitude, curious into what the customer needs/wants, outgoing, and conversational without overstepping any boundaries.  This type of person is not only an asset to the team, but the customer as well.”


“What’s another company that delivers service like Starbucks?  I ride motorcycles and I would have to say that Harley Davidson does a really good job.  If I’m looking for a part, I can talk with someone that day and know that they’re not only going to call me back, but they’re going to check in with me afterwards to make sure that I got everything I need.” – Kelly

Apple, Starbucks, Harley Davidson… all of these have done everything they can to understand the wants and needs of their customer, while delivering them at a human, interactive level.  Do I think that Kelly probably has an incredible knowledge of beans, roasting processes, and an intricate coffee palate?  Absolutely.  But, I assumed this walking in the door.  What keeps me coming back is the fact that they have inquired, done their homework, and delivered on their promise to become the 3rd place in my life. 

They understand the importance of The Customer Experience and have invested alot of time and money to deliver it.  Even though Dunkin Donuts has better coffee according to Consumer Reports, is about $1 cheaper, and is more convenient, I (along with millions of other consumers) will drive a little further, spend a little more time, and spend a little more money for what is promised by this company from Seattle. 

I’ll take a side of Customer Experience with my Americano please…

Thanks Kelly.  By sticking to the Starbucks “You Factor” you made my experience great… and I’m telling my 2-3 people.

Matt Dollinger




1. csnoto - June 10, 2008

Enjoyed this and I agree with the conclusions. We have one in the very small town I live in. People go there to hang out, shoot the breeze…and then yes, buy some coffee.

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