As Starbucks has become an American icon, as much a part of
our landscape as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, have they lost their customer
service edge? Has growth come at the cost of serving their customers in
their unique way, the way loyal Starbuckians have come to expect?
There is evidence to suggest this is the case. In a recent BBC News article,
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz commented on the “dilution of the
Starbucks experience”. He added “the firm had lost its focus”. Comments
from Starbucks customers also support this notion:
And some customers who say they have asked a barista to make them a cup of bold coffee say they have been refused.
have been other disturbing signs over the past five years. Staff
turnover seems epidemic; I seldom see the same faces on repeat visits.
I read about poor staff morale…And staff seem less knowledgeable about
the coffees and each blend’s character.
Author Kim Fellner, asked “Can Starbucks really be big and good at the same time?” And her answer seems to be “no, they can’t”. In interviews with Starbucks employees she heard comments like this: “When
I started six years ago, this was the best job of its kind. Now it’s
all about the money. It’s like nobody cares about us any more.” And if employees feel their company does not care about them, the chances are they’ll care less about the customers.
But, I’d bet my mortgage payment that for every bad customer service story at Starbucks there’s a good one.
In what is probably the most astonishing example
of an employee putting her customer first, Starbucks barista Sandra
Andersen gave up one of her kidneys for a customer. Maybe that’s too
far beyond the norm to even count. But more typical examples abound:
From Telegraph UK
not about the coffee, the latte or anything else for that matter. It’s
about the ambiance. A temporary haven to duck out of the grind of a
hectic morning/afternoon and relaxing over a coffee, tea etc.
monthly coffee seminars, the friendly (and quite often funny)
conversations in the cafe and the drive (through), and the
knowledgeable staff make this a top-notch establishment.
the USA, communities are asking Starbucks to reconsider closing their
favorite Starbucks. How’s that for customer loyalty? Having your
customers beg you to stay! Most companies can only imagine having such
a bond with their customers.
It’s easy to
assume Starbucks growth into the 8000 pound gorilla of coffee shops had
a deleterious affect on their ability to offer the same customer
experience that made them famous. When you have 16,000 stores and over
300,000 employees, it’s hard to be on your “A” game with every single
customer interaction. There are bound to inconsistencies, foul-ups and
a general change of culture. It’s a natural side effect of growth.
At the same time though, Starbucks has drilled themselves into the
lives of their customers like few global goliaths ever have. They’ve
become a part of the fabric of their host communities, a fabric many
people do not want torn.
So, is Starbucks
retrenching because of bad customer service? Lacking any sort of
scientific data I’ll go with my gut and say no. Customer service is not
the reason Starbucks is slowing. I think it’s a combination of many
things like the economy, competition and the evolution of their market.
Though many of their stores probably fail to deliver the typical
Starbucks experience, overall I think they do a pretty decent job.
What do you think? If you have an opinion, let me know by taking this short survey