2 - 1 -  20150512_081114 jwa1. A re-invigoration of “Just Say Yes” and “Exceed the expectations of your customers”. Preserve the Starbucks Experience: What separates Starbucks from its competition is the relationship it has with its customers. In Starbucks’ own research, the experience between the customer and the barista is the largest reason why customers keep coming back. The experience is more important than the actual drink, in some cases. During the December 4th, Starbucks biennial investor relations conference, Matt Ryan (Global Chief Strategy Officer) said that Starbucks brand love is driven 47% by the customer – partner relationship, 26% from coffee love, and the remainder the brand reputation and brand goodwill. There’s been an alarming trend of “just say no.” I can give examples, but I don’t want to write a book. The real reputation of the brand is what people say about it once they’ve walked out the front door. At least very recently, the trend has been lower customer satisfaction at Starbucks. I’m not going to say that “yes” is always the right answer but “yes” usually is the right answer.

I realize this is the most controversial thing on this list. We’re in an era where it’s seemingly trendy to bash customers and dismiss the entire retail experience as some “first world problem” or “entitled.” This is not solely a Starbucks trend, but more generally true. There are blog articles, internet memes, and more in this vein. However, when the shoe is on the other foot, most people won’t open up their wallets without good reason. I love the Ray Kroc quote, “If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.” If you take care of your customers, profitability will follow.

2. Increase the length of time that brand new baristas spend in training. New Starbucks partners experience near trial by fire. They learn very little about corporate history, MyStarbucksRewards, the Starbucks experience, or even coffee and espresso beverages. Memorizing beverage recipes is critical but there needs to be much more. In my conversations with baristas, I’ve learned that usually by day three to day five, new partners are on the floor, on the register or on bar. Most partners tells me that there isn’t even a module on MyStarbucksRewards, yet it’s now a significant portion of transactions. If you want to create an “elevated” Starbucks experience, you’ll have to elevate the training. The current 21 to 25 hours of training isn’t quite enough.

I’ve also heard many store managers say that they wish they had longer to develop shift supervisors. One tenured store manager mentioned to me, “After giving a barista less than 20 hours of training, I’m handing my store over to him or her…”

3. Make time for coffee education including coffee seminars including customers. There isn’t enough time for coffee education and most customers never experience a tasting inside a store. One way to spread enthusiasm for the whole bean coffee wall is to share that love of coffee with customers. A person knows a subject matter well when they can teach it to others: it would be fun to create a customer coffee master program! (I would volunteer to be the first customer coffee master!) MyStarbucksIdea.com threads like this one show that there’s an untapped passion for coffee among customers. Fundamentally though, there should be time for partners to work through their coffee passports.

4. Weed out partners who just don’t care or have a bad attitude, regardless of their seniority. Nobody is entitled to a job. Success is earned. With more than 100,000 people donning the Green Apron everyday, no doubt, there are a very small percentage who disparage the Starbucks experience and just don’t care. You can’t hire 100,000 people and have all super stars. In the mix, there is bound to be a small percentage who roll their eyes at everything, act entitled and care about only their cute self, don’t care about drink quality, and much more. It may be difficult to weed these people out, but it would do some good. You want to have a beautiful garden? You really do have to do some weeding. Again, I recognize that may only be a tiny percentage of partners, but there will be a few bad apples out there.

5. Increase the amount of pay that the most tenured Starbucks baristas get. Starbucks should find some way to compensate that most valuable, long-term baristas. The current compensation scheme means that new partners may be getting hired in at close to what senior partners make. Pay caps cause this to happen. Not sure of the answer here, but the problem is adequately summarized in this petition: https://www.coworker.org/petitions/higher-wages?source=facebook-share-button&time=1423061976

6. Add more non-coverage time: I’ve heard this sentiment from partners often – “I would like to see specifically scheduled non-coverage time for education/training, coffee tastings, cleaning, and connecting partners with store managers. When I was first hired I sat down with my SM at least once a week and we connected over a cup of coffee. I think there is value in constantly assessing morale and performance.”

7. Bring back some kind of secret shopper. The current surveys simply don’t capture enough and there is value in an unexpected customer feedback with a guideline for certain standards. Or, another option would be to include an open-ended comment area on the surveys. The current surveys don’t have any way for a customer to leave a general comment about the store.

8. Fix the refill policy. The number one search engine query that gets people to StarbucksMelody relates to the refill policy. The current refill policy again puts baristas in the position of being mini-sheriffs. The default should be “just say yes” but there’s a better answer: Starbucks shouldn’t create this uncomfortable situation where baristas are asked to police customer refills. It should be tied to the Starbucks card. There ought to be someone to lift this tension from the registers: it’s not good for customers are baristas to have arguments that “that’s not a refill” when really it is, or vice versa. I’m not married to any particular result but the refill policy should be automatically tied to the card only. If you’re not using a card, this would give customers increased reason to register and use a Starbucks card. Starbucks has now said many times that the My Starbucks Rewards program brings both short term value and long-term loyalty in customers, and that MyStarbucksRewards is Starbucks largest driver of growth. It’s remarkably profitable for Starbucks to have customers who join MyStarbucksRewards!

9. Increase the awareness of the great things Starbucks does for local communities: Many partners and customers don’t know that Starbucks encourages local volunteering and anyone can find a community service project via the Starbucks Community Service website. Even fewer partners and customers are aware of “Community Stores” that share their profits with local non-profits.  Bring awareness of these good things!

10. Slow down the rate of new licensed stores. Licensed stores are much harder to regulate in terms of brand standards.

That’s my list of ten things. Feel free to make a suggestion in the comments. I will decline to approve (or delete) comments that bash anyone, are just snark, or do not add to the conversation in a meaningful way.

(This article was inspired in response to this Business Insider article here.)