Savor and Elevate | How to Deliver World-Class Customer Experiences – Leading the Starbucks Way

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For context and based on requests, I’m in the process of presenting key concepts from my ten McGraw-Hill customer experience and leadership books. This is the first in a five-post series, “How to Deliver World-Class Customer Experiences – Leading the Starbucks Way.”  

The story of Starbucks’ meteoric growth during the 1990s and early 2000s is well chronicled in a series of books about the company including one I wrote titled The Starbucks Experience. However, by the mid-2000s the company was reeling from years of frenzied expansion, an obsession for year-over-year sales numbers, a sliding global economy, and less frequent visits from loyal customers in Starbucks’ U.S. stores.

By 2008, Howard Schultz, who had been serving as the chief global strategist for Starbucks, elected to reassume his role as the company’s chief executive officer. During his fiscal 2008, second-quarter earnings call, Howard had to explain 21% earnings declines over the prior year. He noted, “While our financial results are clearly being impacted by reduced frequency to our U.S. stores, we believe that as we continue to execute on the initiatives generated by our transformation agenda, we will reinvigorate the Starbucks Experience for our customers, and in doing so, deliver increased value to our shareholders.”

The transformation agenda to which Howard was referring involved “7 bold moves”:

  1. Be the undisputed coffee authority
  2. Engage and inspire partners (that’s Starbucks term for employees)
  3. Ignite the emotional attachment with customers
  4. Expand Starbucks’ global presence – while making each store the heart of the local neighborhood
  5. Be the leader in ethical sourcing and environmental impact
  6. Create innovative growth platforms
  7. Deliver a sustainable economic model

In the book, I wrote during the Starbucks revitalization titled Leading the Starbucks Way: 5 Principles to Connect with Your Customers, Your Products, and Your People, I outlined leadership and customer experience tactics that supported Starbucks’ transformation plan. The five principles I tackled in that book were:

  • Savor and Elevate
  • Love to Be Loved
  • Reach for Common Ground
  • Mobilize the Connection
  • Cherish and Challenge Your Legacy

I will be taking a principle a week for the next 5 weeks starting with Savor and Elevate

To effectively elevate Starbucks to “be the undisputed coffee authority,” leadership redoubled efforts to drive a passion for the company’s core offering – coffee. While many leaders do not view product passion as a necessary component for sales success, it certainly differentiates sales leaders like Starbucks from most other competitors.

Howard shared, “You can walk into any store, and you can feel whether the proprietor or the merchant or the person behind the counter has a good feeling about his product. If you walk into a department store today, you are probably talking to a guy who is untrained; he was selling vacuum cleaners yesterday and now he is in the apparel section. It just does not work.”

To that end, Starbucks leadership re-emphasized coffee education, sent select employees to coffee farms, and reinforced corporate rituals like beginning meetings with coffee tastings. Essentially, leadership championed coffee excellence and inspired coffee passion throughout the organization.

Based on Howard’s perspective and Starbucks’ approach, here are a few challenge questions for you to consider:

  • On a scale from 1-10, with 1 being “We provide products or services devoid of passion.” and 10 being “We elevate our products and services so our customers can savor them.” how would you rate your zeal for your products or services?
  • What are you doing to help your people become the undisputed authority in your sector?
  • How are you helping your team become knowledgeable and excited about your product and service offerings?

I hope you’ll consider purchasing a copy of Leading the Starbucks Way or if you already own the book, I’d appreciate it if you’d take the time to write a review on Amazon. You can also schedule a time to talk about savoring and elevating your products and services. Here’s to your journey toward a world-class customer experience – inspired in part by Leading the Starbucks Way.

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