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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.
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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



The Philanthropic Value of The You Factor – The @properties Rebuilding Together Project May 21, 2008

Posted by mattdollinger in Hometown Chicago, Industry Misconceptions.
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On a chilly April day in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, I was lucky enough to be part of an epiphany.  Our company, @properties, was sponsoring a home through Rebuilding Together, and April 26th was our work day.  Englewood, a troubled community on the South Side of Chicago had recently had it’s fair share of press without our efforts.  A number of recent shootings, gang activity, and foreclosures dotted the evening news, portraying this neighborhood’s plight.  But this day was different… and as the sun burned through a dotting of clouds, this neighborhood bucked the system and came alive with activity.

Our family’s home had been damaged in a fire years earlier, and through a loophole in the insurance policy, did not receive any assistance.  When I first witnessed the home I was in disbelief.  Not because of the horrible conditions of the home, but by the ingenuity of the 71 year-old husband to do everything he could to repair it.  The home itself had seen much better days, with a staircase pulling away from the wall, soot stained carpeting, and ruined kitchen complete with 20 year old appliances, but the family that lived inside shared love, laughter, and happiness regardless of these conditions.  (See our Blog www.rebuildingchicago.com for pictures of pre construction and a list of our donations)

In the two months prior to the event, our volunteer community of almost 75 Realtors and over 25 skilled work volunteers exhausted every favor owed and developer contact we had for donations.  And on the day of the event, we arrived at our home with over $15,000 in donated time, materials and monetary donations.  (see pictures of event day at http://gallery.mac.com/jeremysegal/100057)

The most important part of this project wasn’t the new kitchen, the new staircase, the extensive landscaping, the new appliances, the rehabbed bathroom or the $1,000 cash donation at the end of the day.  What I will remember from this are the conversations I had and the comments I have heard since the event from our agent population. 

“This feels really good.  I am so thankful for what I have at home.”

“I can’t believe we did this.  I am so proud of what we’ve done.”

“This is the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done.”

“When are we doing another one of these?”

In a world of selfish and self-serving behaviors; At a time when people crowd tour buses to gawk and bid on families losing their homes; In a country of capitalism and status measured by credit scores and assets; these associates who I now consider friends, joined me for a day of feel-good philanthropy and made a difference in a family’s life.  And maybe… just maybe… we can all work a little bit of this giving we uncovered and work it into our everyday lives and our “You Factor”

Matt Dollinger

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More Great Press for the 2007 Chicago Neighborhood @Report May 9, 2008

Posted by mattdollinger in Cool Technology, Hometown Chicago, Using This Technology.
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In the latest issue of Chicago Magazine (www.chicagomag.com), Dennis Rodkin has written an article about our recent release of The @Report – A Local Look at the Performance of 21 Chicago Neighborhoods. This report, in comparison to others in our area, was born with the idea in mind that real estate is local… very local.

“It’s like talking to an agent who works the neighborhood: You will find specifics on how prices have changed in the neighborhood at various price tiers, and what are the hottest-selling sections or developments within the neighborhood.” – says Rodkin

Our plan was to integrate neighborhood data compiled over the last few years and present it with a consumer focus, and consumer understanding. Where the report is still in its first release stage, and our hope is to integrate advanced charting and even geo-coding of neighborhoods down the road, it seems that we have hit our mark of appealing to the consumer and delivering it in a format that they want. How’s that for listening to the masses?

Matt Dollinger
Performance Coach

“The You Factor” – Differentiation in the age of Choice, Experience and Authenticity April 18, 2008

Posted by mattdollinger in Cool Technology, Great other Sites and Blogs, Hometown Chicago, Using This Technology.
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So I have been approached often with the question, “Why The You Factor?  What is it?  What does it mean?”  I’ve been working on a mission statement, (Thanks Jerry McGuire), to address this question, and where it’s not done yet, I’m always excited, “when a plan comes together – Hannibal Smith”. 

Below is an email that I received from one of the agents I coach last night after working with him last week.  He has been a Realtor for a while but feeling rather burned out with the whole industry lately.  We talked at length about his passions, what he liked to do in life, and how we could use this to incorporate a “You Factor” into his business.  The results were outstanding…


I just wanted to thank you for your time last week, I’m very glad <our owner> encouraged me to meet with you. Some of the ideas we came up with to build my business have me real excited! I went out that Friday and took a bunch of neighborhood shots for my listing in <a neighborhood of Chicago> where I have been getting a somewhat negative response on the location, and had them out on the table at a showing on Saturday. The first person to come to the listing and see the pics wrote a contract, that day. Maybe luck, maybe effort, but either way I had a lot of fun getting these pics, and it’s got me real excited about combining my passion of photography with my career as a REALTOR. I can’t wait to implement more ideas.

Thanks so much for you time, I’m looking forward to continuing working with you.

See the pics here

Now I’m excited… and when I’m excited… Katy, bar the door.