Back in February, Starbucks management made a bold move when they closed all of their 7,100 stores for 3 hours so that they could re-train their baristas on creating the best customer experience. With an average of 20 employees per store, that’s a staggering 426,000 man hours, more than $3 million in wages, and 21,300 hours of lost customer revenue. That’s what I call a customer service commitment!
When I read earlier this week that Starbucks was permanently closing 600 of its US stores, I had to wonder how they were feeling about their radical training effort. Today I went to my neighborhood Starbucks. After observing one transaction, I wonder no more.
As the customer ahead of me got to the front of the ordering line, the Starbucks barista immediately said, “Hello there! Long time no see!” Customer lady went into a long explanation about where she’d been. Barista girl smiled, and nodded, and listened politely to a much-too-long explanation of Customer lady’s recent whereabouts. When Customer lady finally took a breath, Barista girl said, “Are you still doing those tall lattes?” Customer lady said, “Yes, exactly!”
Barista girl walked away to make the tall latte, and Customer lady said to her friend, “I can’t believe she remembered that. I haven’t been here in FOREVER!” That was followed by more details about her recent activities, which caused her friend to smile, and nod, and listen politely.
The reason why a customer service moment like this is so important in a retail business is because it makes an impact on every person within observation range. Customer lady was impressed. Customer lady’s friend was impressed. I was impressed. And the 23 people who will undoubtedly hear the story from chatty Customer lady will be impressed too.
Any employee in any retail setting can find a way to put a personal touch into their work and make a positive impact on customers. The question most retail managers ask is “How do I motivate my employees to WANT to make a positive impact?” It took 21,000 hours and several million dollars for Starbucks to prove to its employees that it was serious about the Starbucks-branded customer experience. If the result is what I observed today multiplied by 7,100, then I don’t think they should regret one minute or one penny of their effort.