My enjoyment of Starbucks continually soars which, I find ironic, since I am not a chainster. The consistent pattern of customer service they offer lures me to pay attention to the operation from the moment I approach the location until I leave. They have captured the essence of the neighborhood café while packaging and delivering a cookie cutter product hardly essential to existence. Yet, we find ourselves addicted to not only the caffeine they brew, mix, shake and pour, but also the personalities and the friendliness they offer as a customer service added value product.
I began my restaurant experience in a neighborhood location catering to the regulars from early morning until sunset. My vision at the time had little focus on espresso – I immediately dumped the machine as soon as I acquired the property – and traveled the road of prepared food instead of frothy foam and sticky syrup. During that three year experience I learned the quirks of café coffee sippers. They are not an easy lot to please.
Along with coffee, Starbucks has managed to package personality and offer it with each cup they sell I don’t know of any other chain that has accomplished this feat.
I find myself at Starbucks every morning at 5:15 a.m. and m seldom not greeted by name. Frequently, the Starbuckian will claim I am either early or running a bit late. There is a comfort level in that. Weeks back, I bought my wife, Kranston who rolls into the same store an hour or so later, a coffee card and left it with the Barista to give to her when she came in. When I left the store I didn’t think twice about leaving a $40.00 card with someone I only knew over a coffee counter.
I have wondered for years how Howard Schultz and company have managed to empowered their employees to extend themselves into every transaction. In an industry where empowerment is a constant chore – an Everest scaling sized task -known more for micro managing and babysitting than empowerment achieving Starbucks’ style is a monumental accomplishment.
Yesterday however I found out the corporate secret. This chain that has managed to replace the bars that made Manhattan come alive late at night, with cafes that Hemmingway would frown upon while his French bistro neighbor snickered, has shifted their focus from coffee to customers.
When Shultz first started, it was fresh ground beans on location. Forty five minutes and the coffee was dumped. Manual steamers and espresso machines. However, as time passed and the chain grew, Shultz realized the service, ambiance and personality Starbucks offered customers would become equally, if not more important than the brew that could be duplicated by another group of entrepreneurial barista-types.
Yesterday, while ordering my fifth Venti Black Iced Tea of the day at the Marin Starbucks at
“The long time partners, the employees who have been here for years, know how to spot things instantly. They recognize customers. They know each regular’s drink and they know the importance of prioritizing customers over task.”
The new hire looked at him with questioning gaze.
“That may sound a little “oh, sure’,” Brad injected, “but it’s true. We all learn the customer comes first.”