Starbucks Customer ExperienceIf you’re living in the U.S., you’re never more than 170 miles away from a decent latte – thanks to Starbucks. The Seattle-based company has transformed itself into a global brand with about 19,000 stores in 65 countries, capturing customer loyalty and brand advocacy in huge chunks. Today, its brand philosophy is the subject of books and conference sessions – like the one held at Loyalty360’s Engagement & Experience Expo last week in Dallas.

“Starbucks serves more than 5 million customers a day and 15% are doing their transactions by mobile,” Paul Conder, principal of customer experience practice for Lenati, LLC, said during his presentation at the Expo titled, How Starbucks Builds a Better Customer Experience in the Café, on Your Phone, and in Your Car. “It’s a company with enormous impact – and small changes can have huge results.”

Starbucks and Lenati worked on seven projects over the course of several years to secure the brand as a global innovator. After a series of setbacks when Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stepped down to take a seat on the board, he returned as CEO in 2008 with the intent of re-establishing Starbucks’ reputation as a leader in CX.

The Starbucks mission focuses on six areas: Coffee, partners, customers, stores, neighborhoods, and shareholders. In addition, there are multiple touch points Starbucks constantly considers – from the coffee, to service design, to operations, to community outreach.

“At the core of the mission and the touch points is the customer experience,” Conder said. “Starbucks believes in creating a complete experience for the customer on every level.”

Lenati focused on a series of goals for Starbucks that included establishing an enhanced understanding of actual customer patterns and developing recommendations to improve customer experience. To achieve these goals, it established four key areas of context: The café, drive-thru, food, and digital.

“What we found is that analyzing touch points doesn’t cut it,” said Conder, who used Apple’s Genius Bar as an example of this. “It’s not about the desk – it’s about the overall framework; it’s how the Genius Bar makes the customer feel.”

The Lenati/Starbucks CX Process

Lenati relies on three main areas of focus when designing customer experience strategy: Discovery, ideation, and testing. Each of these steps is unique and critical for creating a holistic experience for every customer on all channels, including mobile.

Critical to the discovery process was field observation of selected Starbucks sites and the implementation of Lenati’s branded method ethnographic data research that revealed the emotional cues, social interactions, and other behavioral patterns of Starbucks customers.

“Capturing data gave us the opportunity to inform the design process,” said Conder, who explained that the Starbucks data and observations revealed surprisingly distracted customers. “What we found was that customers are not always engaged with touch points like we thought they would be.”

Lenati also looked at Starbucks’ point of sale data to find changes in the environment. What’s more, when Lenati reviewed the competition – the “mom and pop,” independently owned coffee shops − it found that the shops, typically popular with hipsters, are not always equated with a more positive engaging customer experience than that at Starbucks.

Starbucks observational data was used to design stores that don’t just affect the customer experience, but also the performance of the store and also pushed into the digital space. The result? The simple, integrated, omni-channel experience Starbucks is known for.

The Takeaways

Conder said his team’s work with Starbucks provided essential takeaways for any brand ready to build a dynamic customer experience landscape.

“CX is limited to loyalty, brand, and spending,” he said. “Building journey maps should be done with loyalty in mind.”

Also, Conder suggests not making any decisions in a linear fashion, but rather taking a multidimensional approach; working with departments and people with different skills sets to bring something new to the table.

Brands should not be afraid of getting out in the field, brainstorming, and testing.

“Ideation happens in the field and ideation can be learned,” said Conder, who said testing need not be expensive and time consuming - in fact, Lenati often tests store layouts using cardboard boxes.

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