Starbucks is unique in some ways: Customers are invited to care about what’s happening in the stores and in the business. They might not expressly say anywhere, “You are invited to care,” but the message is loud and clear. It’s there – everywhere in the business model.
As a quick aside, let me mention the inspiration for this commentary: I was reading a Facebook thread about partners and their hair color. Along the way, deep in the hundreds of intense comments, one partner asked the question, “You don’t work for Starbucks. Why do you even care?” I thought, ‘It doesn’t matter what the original poster replies. Starbucks invites customers to care, so no partner should be surprised when customers care about the stores, the business, the people, and more.’
How does Starbucks invite caring in their stores and their business?
Starbucks invites anyone to submit an idea or suggestion to the company: They want to know your thoughts! Not many businesses have a site quite like My Starbucks Idea. There have been a number of times that Starbucks made changes or modified things related to ideas suggested on My Starbucks Idea. (A few other companies have similar sites – Dell has their “Idea Storm” website.)
Starbucks invites anyone (both customers and partners) to join in community service! This Community Service website operated by Starbucks is remarkable. Customers may find themselves side by side with store baristas, management, or corporate partners, all joining together to improve communities. I’ve had some great experiences volunteering with Starbucks!
Starbucks partners are given the high aspiration of creating “inspired moments” in each customer’s day. It’s even on the inside of the green (and black) aprons. “We create inspired moments in each customer’s day.” There’s no question, if customers and partners are building connections, caring will grow out of this.
In December last year, Starbucks executive Matthew Ryan gave insights on to what customers mean when they say they “love Starbucks.” Starbucks own research shows that as to brand love “about half of it comes from the connection that people feel inside our stores and the partners that deliver that connection.” Mr. Ryan went on to say, “It is that partner connection that is the secret sauce of our business.”
This has been the culture of Starbucks since its very early years. I met up with one of the original Starbucks executives last month (and author of the book It’s Not About the Coffee – Strongly recommended!!) and learned so much about the culture of the business and where it came from. Howard Behar said to me that the business is about “Human beings serving other human beings: not partners serving customers.” It is a people business, and so it’s should never be a surprise when customers care about what is happening with the stores, business, or individual partners.
Yesterday, in my Facebook feed I saw a tender and kind (and funny) example of the relationships that customers make with store partners. This originally appeared in an Area 10 store manager’s feed (note: it was originally posted with a “public” setting.)
Today one of my customers came in and brought me a cupcake. I asked her why and she pointed at my board that said “World AIDS Day” and said “For World Helper Day. Thank you for helping me with English.” Didn’t quite know how to explain the difference….but I ate the cupcake.
How adorable!! I know that store manager well, I can say without a doubt, he is all about the human connection.
As to the original debate that inspired this post: I personally don’t care what color hair my barista has. It’s all about the human connection.
There is no question that I connect with many partners at my local SB and they are great. And I have seen these partners reach out to customers on various levels. Also I can say I have met many customers that have become friends. That being said I am not sure I feel that SB totally cares about the customer if there is an issue in a store. I think it depends on the DM, the manager or the RDM.
jenn in GA
you met Howard Behar?!? i’m SO inspired by him. his directives when he was at the company created and fostered the culture that is dying in some stores today.
i’m so thankful for the opportunity i have each day to infuse happiness into a moment for a customer.
“Why do you care?” That makes me wonder if perhaps I care to much. I make every effort to friend the Baristas that serve me. I enjoy going to my SB and making the people at the counter smile or laugh by some gesture or comment. I see them work hard a lot of time they barely have time to look up let alone say something.
We lost our SB during the big downsizing a few years back. So now we go to the closes one to use. Luckily it is still some what on the way to work or to where we do our shopping. When we first started to go there it seemed no one was smiling or making an effort to get to know the regulars. I had made a few feedback comments and it got back better. I think it was more the new manager did/is doing a bang up job. I also found the old adage of treat someone the way you want to be treated was in order. So I started to say hi and get to know them, thanks to the name badges, and make small talk when the line was not to backed up.
Any partner that says “why do you care: needs training. Rule #1 take care of the customer or someone else will.
Love reading your blog thank you for all your insights.
The connection I made was with Kevin, at the Pacific place store where I originally met you and found out about your blog, Melody! Kevin, who’s now at the roastery, told me, I believe he transferred from Colorado and started asking me about myself… He’s the very first partner that showed an interest in ME, although I’d been coming to that store for some time. Now that I’m travelling with my wife full time in our motorhome and stop at every Starbucks we can, I’ve only experienced it one other time in Troutdale, OR. Don’t get me wrong, all the partners I’ve met have been very friendly, just not personable.
Recently, I was told I care took much and I have been trying to take a step back which is very hard for me. Crazy to think that is what my biggest area of opportunity is, but I am working on a work life balance and not caring so much.
I hang out at at Starbucks in Lady Lake frequently. Last night I was there waiting for my husband to finish his shift at Publix and noticed something. All of the baristas were focused and moving along quickly. Except one who spoke up and took time to say hello to me. It makes a big difference. Lisa is always kind and funny when I go in. I’m sure I’m a tad annoying with my questions. I’ve always been someone who cares more. Giving and caring are my personality traits and I won’t apologize for it. I love that Starbucks takes suggestions and allows for phone calls like they do. Their Investment is two sided. We all get so much from our interactions there besides the coffee. Very well written Melody!!
The recent state of MSI is not even remotely proof that SBux cares. If they cared, they would do something about that site.
@SnowWhite – I think it’s significant that Starbucks has launched ideas from MSI and considered the feedback. I’ve found myself too strapped for time to look at MSI or what’s happening with MSI. It’s always had an element of chaos. Essentially, the format is like an endless blank page where anyone can write anything, regardless of how silly, repetitive, or valuable!
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Love this article. It truly relates to one of my favorite quotes I try to live my life by – throw kindness around like confetti. It truly warms my heart to see the passion for human connection transcend both sides of the counter. ❤️