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Barbara Farfan

Starbucks' Service Commitment, Starbucks Service Moment

By July 4, 2008

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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.


November 10, 2009 at 7:19 am
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Good for Starbucks! It’s about time that a company put its money where its mouth is when it comes to customer satisfaction! So many of the big boys pay lip service to CS but don’t really know what it’s all about. I’ve worked for several of these and built the best CS store in the respective chains only to be either totally ignored or to receive a token, 59 cent award. Can you imagine how an employee would perceive a company’s commitment to CS when he or she is the BEST in a company whose annual revenues top a billion dollars and doesn’t even receive a hearty handshake or, perhaps, a $100 gift card? Ridiculous! Companies need to recognize that the only way that folks will consistently take great care of their revunue stream (i.e. their valued customers) is if they are taken great care of themselves by the company.

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