Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Friday, June 01, 2007

"Sorry, we're not a real Starbucks"

Today was the second time in a month, on two opposite coasts, I have been told by a person in a Starbucks store, wearing a Starbucks apron, that the Starbucks I was standing in was "not a real Starbucks."

In Boston, the location was not able to honor my Starbucks gift card. In San Francisco, the location was not even able to accept a simple gift certificate for a measly half-pound of Starbucks coffee.

Not a "real" Starbucks?
Let me be clear: There is absolutely no outward difference between these Starbucks locations and any other "real" Starbucks location. They look exactly the same. They have tables, they have the same decor, the have Starbucks logos everywhere. It doesn't say "Joe's Coffee Shop, proudly serving Starbucks Coffee" on the sign. It's just another Starbucks to everyone walking by.

The logo is the brand, stupid
These two Starbucks locations I was in were probably some sort of lesser tier in Starbucks' franchise system. But the customer doesn't know this, or care, and should never even have to care that this is some lesser franchise that doesn't hook into the Starbucks gift card system or whatever ridiculous excuse they have for claiming to not be a "real" Starbucks.

If that customer can't get the normal level of service they've come to expect from any other Starbucks, that experience is lessened. That brand image is tainted, damaged.

Let me be blunt. Starbucks will fail as a company if they do not fix this problem.

Not because I won't be able to use my gift card for my mocha. That's not even the real issue. It's because their own employees don't even consider themselves to be part of Starbucks the brand.

(And because people like me will go back to their computers and write long rants about the raw, bleeding sore this is on Starbucks' brand strategy, instead of just walking the three blocks to another location to redeem their coupon.)

Your employees are your brand ambassadors
And don't give me "But they're not real Starbucks employees." They are in the eyes of every single customer who walks into that franchise.

If you have a Starbucks logo on your hat or apron, you serve Starbucks coffee, and the store looks identical to every other Starbucks, then you are a real fucking Starbucks.

However, if Starbucks doesn't consider those people wearing their logo to be the company's brand ambassadors (I don't care if their paychecks come from Seattle or from Joe's Coffee Shop), then Starbucks is going to fail. Because they're going to lose the battle for brand loyalty.

People selling Starbucks coffee need to feel they are Starbucks employees, no matter who their boss is who happens to own the franchise. And Starbucks needs to consider those people their employees and, more importantly, their brand ambassadors.

Starbucks is one of Fortune magazine's 100 Best Places to Work. How can that be if a large portion people who wear your brand every day don't even associate themselves with your brand? They alienate your customers because they emit an attitude of "Meh, whatever. We're not a real Starbucks and I have nothing invested in trying to satisfy you as a customer, so I'm not even going to try."

Here's what says: "Our success depends on your success. Our ability to accomplish what we set out to do is based primarily on the people we hire - we call each other 'partners.' We are always focused on our people. We provide opportunities to develop your skills, further your career, and achieve your goals. At Starbucks, you’ll find a commitment to excellence among our partners; an emphasis on respect in how we treat our customers and each other; and a dedication to social responsibility..."

What bullshit. Starbucks, you need to fix this, or you will rot from the ankles up.

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Blogger ynnej said...

Since when do you drink Starbucks?

6/02/2007 12:09:00 PM

Blogger espd said...

I've been making my own coffee at the office for a little while now (Stumptown Roasters/Ritual, usually), having become fed up with the aged beans in our coffee machines.

There's a Starbucks next door, and sometimes coworkers want to go out for coffee, to have a conversation away from other people, and Starbucks is the default now that the little tiny coffee window down the street had to close.

6/04/2007 01:46:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meh. Why pay extra for pre-burnt coffee? We've gone back to just brewing our own at the office. The novelty is gone. Is Starbucks different than Krispy-Kreme?

9/12/2007 08:41:00 PM


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