Welcome to Starbucks Passion and PR!
From the first time I stepped into a Starbucks store, I was hooked. The decor, lighting, furniture, back-splash behind the bar and the cheerful partners were all warm, welcoming and full of cafe culture. And since that first visit, Starbucks has always stayed true to their form and vision.
It’s more than coffee; it’s culture, community. Every Starbucks store is corporately owned and operated, which has allowed every store to stay consistent with Howard Schultz’s, Starbucks president and CEO, original vision. After returning from a trip to Italy, where he discovered coffee and cafe culture for the first time, Schultz had a vision; to create a complete coffee store experience. True to his initial vision and dream, Starbucks has become the premier coffee shop in communities across the globe.
Most corporations lose their initial mandate as profits soar and stores multiply. This is not the case with Starbucks. Always a community, always an inclusive culture and always a destination; Starbucks is truly a home away from home.
This blog is dedicated to communicating Starbucks’ greatness. CSR initiatives via Shared Planet will be examined and presented; Products will be assessed and explained and everything that makes up Starbucks will be exposed.
Step inside Starbucks Passion and PR to discover and discuss this truly great corporation.
The Starbucks annual meeting was held this past Wednesday, March 24th in Seattle. Although I didn’t attend the meeting, I watched the webcast later that evening. Click here to watch the meeting.
The meeting was extremely informative and interesting. The highlights provided insight into Starbucks’ commitment to its partners, dedication to the highest level of customer service, passion for understanding all aspects of sourcing their beans, an overview of Seattle’s Best Coffee and the overall direction of the company.
Howard Schultz was captivating and spoke eloquently in his opening speech. I was especially moved by a story he provided that spoke to a suggestion he received from a disgruntled shareholder 3 years ago. After hitting a financial low point a few years ago, a shareholder told Howard that this was the perfect time to cut Starbucks’ partners’ comprehensive health care coverage; a move that would save Starbucks upwards of $300 million. Howard explained that this conversation with the shareholder lasted less than 5 minutes because simply put, this was not an option for Starbucks. Howard and Starbucks have always put their people first and cutting their health care coverage would seriously contradict the foundations that Starbucks was built upon. Howard didn’t even entertain this suggestion and fully expressed that the strength of Starbucks resides in its partners. He said Starbucks’ mandate has and always will focus on “linking profitability with a social conscious, a level of benevolence and most importantly, linking long term value for the shareholder by creating long term value for our people.” What else can be said? Clearly, Starbucks is dedicated to their partners and when you invest in your people, financial gains are sure to come. Evidently, Howard made the right decision as Starbucks stocks reached a 3 year high at the time of this meeting; up over 100% from the previous meeting one year ago.
Howard went on to talk about Starbucks’ commitment to the highest level of customer service. As previously expressed, Howard explained that “we were never in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee and our people have to come first.” By ‘people’ he refers to both partners and customers. It isn’t just about meeting customer expectations, it’s about exceeding them. Starbucks is committed to giving customers a perfect cup of coffee, a warm and welcoming in-store atmosphere and an overall pleasant stay in their stores. It is this attitude, shared by all partners and senior management, that truly makes Starbucks ‘the third place.’ Where most large companies talk about yearly profits and fiscal goals at their shareholder meetings, Starbucks focused on the pillars that have led to their ongoing success; partners, people and farmers.
Another highlight of the meeting was the short video showing several partners who travelled to South America to learn more about the sourcing and harvesting of their coffee beans. The partners in the video learned, firsthand, what goes into growing coffee beans. This video epitomizes Starbucks’ dedication to ethical sourcing. It’s not enough to just grind the beans and produce the coffee. It’s about understanding every aspect of farming and harvesting the beans, right from the source. Clearly, Starbucks respects their coffee producers as they work one-on-one with farmers and communities across the globe to harvest ethically produced coffee beans.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting was Michelle Gass’, president of Seattle’s Best Coffee, presentation on Starbucks’ sister company. Seattle’s Best Coffee is rapidly becoming a recognizable gourmet coffee brand. Seattle’s Best has recently signed deals with Subway and Burger King, enabling the sale of high quality coffee products at these fast food chains. The most interesting and important aspect of these partnerships is that the Starbucks brand can expand without jeopardizing its cafe shop image. Simply put, if Starbucks partnered with these chains, they would surely attach a fast food stigma to their company. However, since Seattle’s Best is structured differently than Starbucks, there is no problem with selling their coffee in fast food restaurants. By doing this, Starbucks’ image is kept intact and Seattle’s Best is able to expand. Both Starbucks and Seattle’s Best have different markets and through Gass’ presentation, it was evident that Seattle’s Best is doing everything in their power to target their specific market and thus, expand.
Finally, the meeting explained Starbucks’ direction for the future. With new products like VIA Ready Brew, Starbucks is interested in expanding; a pleasant reality for shareholders. Yet, even with the growth of the brand, Starbucks executives expressed that Starbucks will remain the same as always; the third place for customers and a welcoming home for their partners. The same beliefs, mandates and structures that built Starbucks will always remain the same. And the way I see it, this is a good thing.
The annual meeting was a huge success and further solidified Starbucks as the world’s best company.
Oh and Sheryl Crow performed. She was awesome.
The 2010 Starbucks Annual Shareholders meeting took place in Seattle a few weeks ago. At the meeting, several questions were asked about gun policies in Starbucks US stores. Howard Schultz handled the questions diplomatically and respectfully. He stated that Starbucks’ policy on guns would stay consistent with state laws.
Now, as a Canadian, I can’t fully appreciate the concerns raised by shareholders during the question and answer period at the meeting. In Canada, hand-held guns are illegal and thus, obviously, have no place in our society.
But, I do have an opinion on the matter raised by these American shareholders. Currently, 43 American states permit citizens to carry guns in public. Citizens who wish to carry guns are free to bring their weapons into Starbucks stores.
The concern raised in the meeting dealt with loaded guns. Several shareholders expressed that they want Starbucks to introduce a policy that would prohibit loaded guns from entering Starbucks stores. Clearly, this is a valid concern given the tragic history involving a gunfight in a Washington coffee shop a year ago. Click here to see the story.
Starbucks executives addressed these concerns but explained that Starbucks wouldn’t introduce a policy that would oppose state laws. Simply put, if it’s legal to carry a loaded gun in these states, then a loaded gun would be allowed in the store. Howard explained that he hopes that the guns aren’t loaded when they enter the store, but it’s beyond their control.
So here’s my take on it.
Ideally, stricter policies prohibiting loaded guns from entering Starbucks stores would be excellent. But in reality, it would be impossible to monitor such a policy. Baristas aren’t paid to police gun owners. It would put partners in danger if they had to enforce a policy that would prohibit loaded guns from entering stores. If citizens choose to carry loaded guns (legal in many states) then Starbucks shouldn’t enforce a policy that would stop this. Having partners monitor and police a new Starbucks policy prohibiting loaded guns, could cause confrontation between partners and loaded gun carrying citizens. Obviously, this is far from ideal.
Howard and Vivek Varma, senior VP, Public Affairs, handled the concerns admirably. They stated that Starbucks would continue to stay consistent with state laws, whether they permit loaded guns in stores or not. I believe this is the right decision for Starbucks because again, it would be difficult and dangerous for Starbucks to oppose current gun laws in particular states. Staying consistent with state laws is the only way to go, even if it isn’t ideal for those wanting Starbucks to introduce stricter policies.
Your thoughts on this?
Starbucks has always been committed to their CSR initiatives. This post is the first of a three part series that will dissect each of their three CSR commitments and expose their communication strategies when dealing with each initiative.
“Shared Planet” started as a result of Starbucks’ growing desire to illustrate their commitment to CSR objectives and as a result of consumers’ wish for an improved commitment by Starbucks’ to their CSR practices. After several comments on My Starbucks Idea calling for recycling and improved social responsibility, Starbucks decided to introduce the new site, which speaks to their CSR initiatives. This commitment to doing business responsibly entails several SMART goals to keep Starbucks socially responsible.
The “Shared Planet” initiative offers Starbucks’ tactics and strategies for ethical sourcing, third-party verification results and their future efforts for continued CSR success. “Shared Planet” has its own section on their corporate website, www.starbucks.com/sharedplanet.com, where Starbucks explains their commitment to C.A.F.E practices (Coffee and Farmer Equity) and ethical sourcing. Starbucks executives constantly blog about their CSR initiatives and future objectives for the campaign and provide links back to the website. Here is one executive blog discussing “Shared Planet.” The website also offers data and reports on their involvement in their fair trade and ethical sourcing initiatives, which are effectively presented for the reader and easy to read.
I used three methods to learn everything about Starbucks’ “Shared Planet.” First, I went into a Starbucks’ retail store and analyzed in-store signage and brochures. Second, I spoke with a Starbucks partner about “Shared Planet.” Third, I went to the “Shared Planet” website and learned more about their on-going commitment to fair trade and ethical sourcing.
I) In-store signage, product labels and brochures
In a Starbucks store, I found few signs talking about Starbucks’ commitment to fair trade and ethical sourcing of their coffee beans. There was only one sign near the packages of coffee beans and thermos’ that read: “Starbucks is North America’s largest purchaser, roaster and distributor of Fair Trade Certified coffee beans.” But Starbucks’ CSR message was still communicated effectively because rather than signage, they opted to communicate their CSR initiatives through the labels on their coffee cups and on their packaged coffee beans. One cup says: “YOU. Bought 228 million pounds of responsibly grown, ethically traded coffee last year. Everything we do, you do. You stop for a coffee and just by doing that, you let Starbucks buy more coffee from farmers who are good to their workers, community and planet. It’s using our size for good and you make it all possible. Well done, you.” Other cups say: “YOU. Buy our coffee. And that lets Starbucks do business in ways that are good to each other and the planet. Everything we do, you do. Thanks, you.” Also, the packages of coffee all tell a story about the community where the beans come from and explains how Starbucks helps the farmers in these communities.
While in the store, it was apparent that Starbucks is committed to working with the coffee farmers they purchase their beans from. They look after these farmers and ensure that these communities, from which the coffee beans are grown, receive continuous moral and equitable financial support. These facts and realities were effectively communicated and easy for the consumer to understand. Even before speaking with a Starbucks partner, I had a solid understanding of what Starbucks stood for because the information on the cups and on the packaged coffee beans exposed much of their involvement and commitment to these foreign communities in the Asia-Pacific and South America regions.
The store also had brochures, for consumers to take, that talked about Starbucks’ commitment to Fair Trade and C.A.F.E practices. The brochure is entitled “Of Coffee and Community” and exposes Starbucks’ CSR practices from previous years. The brochure highlights the following: Starbucks purchased 228 million pounds of green (unroasted) coffee beans from C.A.F.E practices in 2007; Starbucks purchased 20 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified coffee beans in 2007; Starbucks is North America’s largest purchaser, roaster and distributor of Fair Trade Certified coffee beans; and a message from Starbucks president and CEO Howard Schultz that speaks to the importance of ethically purchased and fair traded coffee. The information in this brochure was easily accessed since the brochure was free to take. I didn’t have to ask a partner for this brochure as several copies were readily available at the condiment bar.
II) Speaking with a partner
As I stood by the counter, waiting for my tall lactose free Americano misto, I asked the barista to speak about Starbucks’ involvement in fair trade and ethical sourcing. The barista was relatively helpful and explained to me that Starbucks purchases the majority of their coffee through C.A.F.E practices and they are continuing to look for Fair Trade Certified coffee products. The barista also said that, a few times a year, several Starbucks executives travel to communities across the world to see how they grow their coffee, their working conditions and how they are being supported/treated by Starbucks. Finally, the barista directed me to www.starbuckss.com/sharedplanet to learn more about their involvement in these CSR initiatives. I found this information extremely informative as the barista was knowledgeable and helpful. It was easy to gain this information because all I had to do was ask a few questions.
III) Shared Planet on Starbucks’ website
The “Shared Planet” section of Starbucks’ website makes it easy for anyone to understand their CSR initiatives and future objectives. “Shared Planet” online has several sections that, when opened, give a comprehensive look at everything Starbucks stands for and is involved in. It is broken down into these categories: Our Responsibility, Ethical Sourcing, Fair Trade (C.A.F.E Practices), Shared Planet Principles, Performance and Progress, Verification and Transparency and Scorecard. This website gives a complete overview of Starbucks’ CSR initiatives and objectives. The information was extremely easy to access and was communicated effectively.
The two most effective tactics Starbucks uses to communicate their fair trade and ethical sourcing initiatives are found through their labelling on their cups and packaged coffee and through their website, www.starbucks.com/sharedplanet. The labelling is extremely effective because any customer who purchases a cup of coffee gets a quick understanding of Starbucks’ commitment to fair trade and ethical sourcing. The cups and packaged coffee also redirects customers, who want to learn more, to their “Shared Planet” website. The other extremely effective communication tactic Starbucks uses is their online website. The “Shared Planet” website talks about their commitment to ethical sourcing and fair trade, both through past successes and future objectives. Anyone looking for information on Starbucks’ CSR strategies can find everything they want on this easy to use online source.
Furthermore, in 2009, The Web Marketing Association awarded Starbucks “Best Environmental Website” for their “Shared Planet” website. These tactics also explain to the consumer how they are helping to facilitate the ethical sourcing of fairly traded coffee, making these tactics extremely effective.
Starbucks has done an excellent job at communicating their CSR mandate of ethical sourcing and Fair Trade Coffee Certified coffee purchasing. The cups and packaged coffee give an overview of “Shared Planet,” the baristas know enough about Starbucks’ CSR initiatives to answer questions and the “Shared Planet” website gives a comprehensive look at everything Starbucks does to help farmers and the communities from which their coffee beans are grown. Simply put, Starbucks effectively communicates their mandate of ethical sourcing and the importance of Fair Trade Certified coffee purchasing.
Stay tuned for the next installation in this three-part series on “Shared Planet.”
This is the second instalment in my 3-part Starbucks CSR exploration. Community involvement is a key initiative in Starbucks’ CSR campaign and has always been a central focus to the company’s mandate.
Starbucks is committed to having a positive impact on communities where their stores are located and in communities where their coffee is grown. But it’s more than just uttering ‘community’ for Starbucks, it’s about having 5 key facets in their community initiative; Community Service, Youth Action, (Starbucks) RED, Starbucks Foundation and Ethos Water Fund. They take these 5 initiatives very seriously and I spoke with a partner, visited a store and examined their website (www.starbucks.com/responsibility) to explore just how seriously Starbucks pursues their community involvement.
1. In-store signage and poster boards
I visited a local Starbucks store to see their community involvement in action. The community board had several posters, flyers, letters and signs talking about Starbucks commitment to the local community. The posters promoted local festivals and events, asking for volunteers and patron attendance. There was even an advertisement for a child’s lemonade stand! This is the true essence of being involved in the community. People are free to post flyers and posters on the community board. Starbucks offers this space for people in their community, which allows Starbucks to be a good, hospitable neighbour.
The board also had 2 letters from local elementary school principals, thanking Starbucks for their generous coffee and food donations to local food drives and school events. These letters epitomize everything that Starbucks’ community initiative stands for.
Also, the board provided information on Starbucks’ community initiatives taking place elsewhere in the world. There was a (Starbucks) RED brochure hanging from the board that talked about how Starbucks and the RED campaign work together to help people with Aids in Africa. Information on the Ethos Water Fund was also found on the community board. This bit of information allows customers to see how they have a positive impact on people in developing countries by helping to provide them with clean drinking water. A portion of every Ethos water sale goes directly to the water fund and since this information is accessible on the community board, customers can feel good about purchasing Starbucks products.
All-in-all the community board was extremely informative and allowed everyone to see just how important community involvement is to Starbucks.
2. Speaking with a partner
Before ordering my drink, I asked a partner to talk about Starbucks’ community involvement. The partner was knowledgeable and seemed to know a fair bit about what Starbucks is doing in local communities and in communities across the world.
The partner told me that several partners in this store have volunteered at local food banks and shelters since joining the Starbucks team. To me, this was extremely inspiring as these partners are taking the time to give-back to their local community.
The partner also told me that by 2015, Starbucks has a goal of inspiring partners and customers to contribute over a million hours of community service each year. I believe it’s vital for a corporation to instil their values in their employees in order to make their CSR initiatives a success. Evidently, these partners have taken Starbucks’ CSR goals to heart and are being good neighbours in their community.
Also, this partner gave me some information on the Starbucks Foundation and their commitment to Youth Action. Then, when I thought I had everything I needed, the partner directed me to the Responsibility section on the Starbucks website.
Speaking with a partner was yet again, another effective tool for finding out more information about Starbucks’ CSR initiatives.
3. Responsibility on Starbucks.com
In my first instalment in this 3-part CSR exploration, Shared Planet had its own section on the Starbucks website dedicated to explaining their CSR initiatives. Since then, Starbucks has moved this information over to the Responsibility section of their website, which has made the information more accessible and easy to comprehend. Good move by Starbucks.
The Responsibility section on the website proved to be the most effective communication tool being used by Starbucks to provide information on their CSR initiatives. After clicking on the Community portion of the site, I was able to explore all the different facets of Starbucks’ community initiatives. There was comprehensive information on all 5 of their initiatives; Community Service, Youth Action, (Starbucks) RED, Starbucks Foundation and Ethos Water Fund.
The nicest part about the Starbucks’ Responsibility section is that it allows people to see exactly what Starbucks is doing in each of their 5 community programs. Each program provides an overview of the initiative and Starbucks’ commitment to them.
Here are some of the highlights from the website (taken directly from the website):
Community Service: “We’d like Starbucks partners (employees) and customers to contribute more than one million hours of community service each year by 2015.”
Youth Action: “Our goal is to engage 50,000 young people, who will in turn innovate, take action and inspire 100,000 individuals in their communities by 2015.”
“In fiscal 2009, we made 71 grants totaling $2.1 million to organizations supporting young people.
(Starbucks) RED: “Every time you buy a (STARBUCKS)RED product or pay with your (STARBUCKS)RED Card*, we make a contribution to the Global Fund to help people living with HIV in Africa. With your help, we’ve already generated contributions equaling more than 14,000,000 days of medicine.”
Starbucks Foundation: “Starbucks and the Starbucks Foundation created the C.O.A.S.T. Fund to assist in the recovery and revitalization of Gulf Coast communities devastated by hurricanes Rita and Katrina.”
Ethos Water Fund: “Ethos® Water was created to help raise awareness about this terrible crisis and provide children with access to clean water. Every time you buy a bottle of Ethos® Water, you contribute 5 cents to the Ethos® Water Fund, part of the Starbucks Foundation. So far more than $6 million has been granted to help support water, sanitation and hygiene education programs in water-stressed countries – benefiting more than 420,000 people around the world.”
Stay tuned for the next and final installation in this 3-part series on Starbucks’ CSR initiatives.
One of the main reasons for starting this blog, starbuckspassion, was to express my appreciation for Starbucks’ great CSR work. Starbucks cares for community, environment and people and I felt it was necessary to highlight some of their promising initiatives. My 3-part CSR series touched on several of their initiatives and examined their CSR mandate. (scroll through my older posts to find the 3-part CSR series.)
With that being said, in this post I want to highlight one of my favourite CSR initiatives Starbucks partakes in; the Ethos Water Fund. Starbucks.com says: “Ethos® Water was created to help raise awareness about this terrible crisis and provide children with access to clean water. Every time you buy a bottle of Ethos® Water, you contribute 5 cents to the Ethos® Water Fund, part of the Starbucks Foundation.” (In Canada, Starbucks donates 10 cents to the Ethos Water Fund. )
Even though 5 cents (10 cents in Canada) seems like small numbers, when millions of bottles are sold, the amount of money raised is staggering. Since its inception in 2005, Starbucks has donated over $6 million to the fund and helped more than 420,000 people around the world. With that many people being helped, the Ethos Water Fund proves to be a valuable component in Starbucks’ CSR campaign.
The world water crisis is one of the largest health concerns in the world. More than 1 billion people lack clean drinking water and over 2.6 billion people lack access to sanitation services. Ethoswater.com says that this crisis affects children most. Almost 4,500 children die every day from the lack of safe drinking water. Children need clean water to help fight diseases and without access to safe drinking water, millions of children will die every year until the crisis is resolved. Whether it be climate, geography or poor sanitation systems, billions of people lack access to safe drinking water. The Ethos Water Fund is dedicated to resolving this crisis.
The Ethos Water Fund currently has 10 projects in several regions across the world. The projects are located in:
Benishangul Gumuz, Ethiopia
Northern Province, Rwanda
Starbucks was committed to raising $10 million to the Ethos Water Fund by 2010 but because of the recent economic downturn, that timeline has been extended and Starbucks remains committed to reaching the $10 million goal.
But for Starbucks it’s not just about donating money to help people gain access to clean drinking water, it’s also about educating people on the world water crisis. The Ethos Water bottle label explains the program’s mandate and educates consumers on how they are helping to resolve the world water crisis.
I think this project is one of Starbucks’ most admirable CSR initiatives. Obviously, you can’t rate the CSR initiatives in terms of importance, but the Ethos Water Fund is a project that not only helps people gain access to clean drinking water but also educates consumers on the world water crisis.
So next time you’re in a Starbucks, reach down and grab a bottle of Ethos water and know that you’re doing something good; you’re helping people gain access to clean, safe drinking water.
The majority of my blog posts focus on the corporate side of Starbucks; CSR initiatives, green building, mandate overview, new products, etc. But for this post, I want to highlight the high level of customer service that Starbucks offers in every store. To Starbucks, “a cup should never be half empty” and it’s the partners that epitomize this belief every time they serve a customer. Clearly, customer satisfaction is a top priority for all partners.
I was in a Starbucks this past July 4th weekend, ordering my favourite drink – an Americano misto. The barista making the drink just started working for Starbucks and was having a difficult time making the drink. She fumbled with the cup, over-foamed the milk and poured the coffee over the milk. Simply put, she got it all wrong. Yet, before I had the chance to tell her it was wrong, she quickly dumped it out and started over. She apologized frantically and was clearly frazzled. I told her: “no big deal! Just relax and take your time.” At that point, she proceeded to properly make the drink and apologize another 5 times. Again, I explained to her that it was okay and not to worry. She insisted that she wouldn’t let this happen again and passed me a “Recovery Card.” I thanked her and sat down with my perfect misto.
It was this interaction with the new barista that inspired this post. We are all human and mistakes are understandable. Yet, this barista was so focused on making my drink memorable that she forgot that I wasn’t grading or judging her. And for the record, the drink she made was incredible – perfect foam to milk to water to espresso ratio. Even though I waited almost 10 minutes for my drink, it was perfect and the barista wouldn’t rest until I was satisfied. Thank you Ms. New Barista.
Her attention to customer satisfaction shows just how important customer service is at Starbucks. How many times do you go into a retail coffee or food shop and are unhappy with the order, only to have the server shrug their shoulders and say: “Sorry, but it is what it is.”? Far too often in my opinion. But at Starbucks, it’s different; the partners stop at nothing until you’re satisfied with your order and the service. To date, I’m yet to find another restaurant or coffee shop that shares this same attention to customer satisfaction.
So why is Starbucks so good at ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction? Well, it’s because most Starbucks’ are corporately owned and operated, which means that the store can afford to make you drink after drink until your satisfaction is guaranteed. Making you another drink or giving you a “Recovery Card” for a free drink next time, doesn’t really impact the store’s bottom line and most importantly, the manager’s income. In a typical retail store structure, the employee or manager may be hesitant to offer you a new drink or product because that means lost revenue. Giving out more product than what’s paid for means that the owner loses the sale and ultimately, negatively impacts their bottom line. At Starbucks, it’s a different story.
Starbucks’ corporate structure allows managers and partners to make you a new drink and/or give you a free one on your next visit. This ensures that all customers are satisfied with their order and the service. It’s a simple value that Starbucks believes in - a happy customer today means a repeat customer tomorrow and the next day… and so on. Other retail operations don’t recognize this simple reality and believe that: an unhappy customer is still a customer. These retail stores are often short-sighted and overlook the fact that customers have long-term memories and probably won’t be back if they are unsatisfied with the services and/or products. Obviously, I’m generalizing here. Not all retail stores overlook customer satisfaction but if you look at how Starbucks deals with customer satisfaction, you’ll see that their service is second-to-none.
The Recovery Card
If your wait for a drink is too long or your drink was made incorrectly, you’ll most likely receive a free drink coupon for your next visit. These coupons are referred to as “Recovery Cards” by partners. And that’s exactly what they are; recovery cards. They are meant to recover satisfaction and retain the customer’s loyalty. Essentially, the cards are saying “the drink wasn’t perfect today and Starbucks is sorry… the next one is on us.” The best thing about these cards/coupons is that they are a no-strings attached freebie for your next visit. You can receive any drink, in any size, at any time for free. It’s a perfect way for Starbucks to ensure customer satisfaction.
Starbucks is such a strong company because these ideals, which the company was founded upon, exist in every store. All partners are trained in making the customer happy and retaining business. This way of doing business has proved time and time again that a happy customer is a repeat customer and that a business can’t succeed without ensuring customer satisfaction.
People always ask me: “Why do you love Starbucks so much?!” And I always find it difficult to answer this question in one sentence. I usually say something like: “Well, the products are top-notch, the atmosphere is welcoming, the partners are friendly, the corporation is socially responsible, etc. etc.” Basically, I can’t narrow it down to just a few reasons. I usually just tell that person to visit this blog and see why I love Starbucks.
For this post, I want to talk about the importance of customer satisfaction again. (I’ve already posted a post about customer service… check it out here).
Starbucks partners are dedicated to customer satisfaction – simple as that. They stop at nothing to bring you the best products and the friendliest service. To highlight this truth, I want to compare a recent experience I had at an independent coffee shop and about an experience I had at a local Starbucks.
Experience at Dolce Cafe in Toronto
I walked into Dolce Cafe on a warm, Wednesday night with a few friends. The atmosphere was nice, the staff seemed friendly enough and a lot of people were scattered around the cafe. It was a nice place.
My friends all wanted gelato, I wanted an Americano. I ordered the Americano and waited by the barista bar. The barista asked me: “how do you take it?” I thought it was unusual for the barista to ask this because I’m used to the self-serve condiment stations in Starbucks stores. But I answered the question; “umm 1 sugar please.” He passed me the drink and I sat down with my friends at a table.
After the first sip, I realized that the barista must have put in a huge, heaping tablespoon of sugar in the drink – it was way too sweet for my liking. I don’t like being picky, but this drink was extremely sweet and I just couldn’t handle it. So, I took the drink back up to the counter and asked if they could remake the drink and skip the sugar step (I’d add it myself). This is what happened:
Me: “Excuse me, hi, sorry, this drink is too sweet for me… can you please remake the drink without the sugar? I feel bad asking, but I just can’t drink this.”
Cashier: “Umm, what do you want me to do about it?!”
Me: “Can you ask the barista to please remake the drink?”
Cashier: “Umm, I have to ask my manager.”
She leaves to get the manager. I wait.
Manager: “Hello sir, apparently you want us to remake the drink? Is this correct?”
Me: “Yes please. I feel bad for asking, but I would really appreciate it if you could remake the drink without sugar; it’s too sweet for me.”
Manager: “Well, you ordered the drink that way, we made it already… sorry, but we can’t remake it.”
Me (growing impatient): “I understand, but the barista made it with too much sugar. Can you please just remake the drink?”
Manager: “No, sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”
Me: “Ok, I know this isn’t an expensive drink and it won’t take much time to fix this situation… so could you please find it in your heart to remake the drink?!”
Nearby customer listening in: “Just remake the drink for this guy, coffee is cheap!”
Manager (visibly irritated): “No! That’s not our policy! The drink was made and that’s it!”
Me: “Okay. Well, keep the drink … I won’t be back.”
End of interaction.
After that last word, my friends and I gathered our stuff and left the cafe. I vowed to never return to this store. It wouldn’t have taken much time or effort to just remake the drink and keep me happy but because the manager refused to fix the situation, this store just lost 5 future customers; myself and my 4 friends.
Now, let’s move forward to the next week. My same 4 friends and I went to a nearby Starbucks.
Here’s the Starbucks Experience
I ordered an Americano and waited at the barista bar. I received my drink promptly and headed to the condiment station. Ironically and much to my surprise, as I tilted the sugar jar towards my cup, the top of the jar fell off and several tablespoons of sugar rushed into my drink. Obviously, I couldn’t drink this coffee – it was ruined!
I walked back to the barista bar and told the barista what happened:
Me: “Hi, sorry, the sugar jar lid fell off and now there’s way too much sugar in my coffee… can you remake it?”
Barista (sympathetic): “Oh no! That sucks! Yes, of course I’ll remake it! Sorry about that!”
Me: “Thank you!”
End of interaction.
See how simple that was?! I didn’t have to beg or argue – the barista didn’t ask any questions and a new drink was ready for me within 2 minutes. Simple as that.
That’s why I love Starbucks. They put the customer first and always make sure their guests are welcome and satisfied in their store.
Starbucks understands that a happy customer today means a return customer tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that and so on.
This simple gesture by the Starbucks barista made my day and gave me the inspiration for this post. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that when you make the customer happy, your business will thrive.
Thank you Starbucks partners! You are all the best customer service representatives any company could ever hope for.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reviewing and discussing some of my favourite Starbucks whole bean offerings. This first instalment discusses Guatemala Antigua, a Latin American whole bean coffee.
Guatemala Antigua may be my favourite whole bean coffee from Starbucks. The first time I tried it was last year when my dad brought a bag of it home. Just like any true Italian coffee-loving family, we have a state-of-the-art Saeco espresso machine right next to our stove. Our machine is probably the most prized appliance in our house. It’s easy to use and really brings out the best in any whole bean coffee.
So my dad cracked the bag and poured a pound of beans into the bean reservoir. We added 3 cups of distilled water to the machine and promptly made a doppio espresso. It was magical. The coffee was medium bodied, had a subtle cocoa middle and ended with a spicy finish. My dad and I were hooked. We went through that bag in just a few days and then went right back to Starbucks for another bag.
Now, in paying tribute to my initial experience with Guatemala Antigua, I’ve done some research to discover why it’s such a delicious coffee.
Just like all Latin American coffees, Guatemala Antigua is a ‘washed’ bean. Washing the coffee beans removes their protective honey and leaves the bean with a crisp, refreshing acidity. Whether you like Latin American coffee or not, you can’t argue that the washing process gives the bean a distinct and palate-cleansing acidity.
This bean is grown in Antigua Guatemala, a city in the central highlands of Guatemala. There are three volcanoes located on the outskirts of this region. The three volcanoes are: Volcán de Agua or “Volcano of Water”, Acatenango and Volcán de Fuego or “Volcano of Fire”.
These three volcanoes are said to have much influence on the coffee itself. They infuse the soil in this region with ash, which enriches the bean plants and gives Guatemala Antigua its distinctive flavour. But even more than the nutrient rich soil, the Antigua Guatemala region is perfect for producing coffee. It receives an abundance of rain, its altitude is above 4600 feet and its humidity level is 65%. Also, the farmers are knowledgeable and passionate about their beans. What’s left is a delicious whole bean offering that features the flavours of cocoa, smoke, spice and flowers.
The best pairing for this coffee is caramel and fruit. But for me, the best way to enjoy it is in a cup, alone.