That Nonreplicable “Something Else”


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We all know the saying: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” But, what does that actually mean for your company and the relationship you form with your customers? Well inevitably great business ideas will be duplicated, replicated and/or “borrowed.” The upside of this reality is that overall products and services are improving as more and more people adopt best practices, on the downside those products and services are becoming more similar.

In my upcoming book Leading the Starbucks Way, I take a look at how leaders at the coffee giant maintain a focus on best practices like LEAN management (designed to drive efficiencies) while breaking from the crowd to leverage technology like an app that transformed the acceptability of mobile pay.

The world is awash with coffee vendors and coffee houses, so Starbucks has to continue to produce a brand that both stands out through the experiences it provides, its brand personality, and values-based leadership. Since most of Starbucks competitors are selling similar coffee products and tempting pastries, most consumers will make a choice based on “something else” other than products alone. It is this mystical “something else” that draws the attention of Starbucks leaders. Whether it is removing clutter that distracts from a setting where people can enjoy a comfortable conversation, or creating varied seating arrangements with differing table heights to address diverse customer need states, Starbucks is looking to offer that little “something else” that draws people past the emulators. So many factors come into play when blending up your “something else” experience not least of which are environmental design, aesthetics, a diverse product array, technologically guided advances in product delivery, and a well-selected, well-trained staff. When you dial-in these factors constantly and effectively are brand can move in the direction of a category leader.

Starbucks literally is not only a leader in its category but in fact the brand continues to evolve and drive the coffee house experience globally. This constant commitment to innovation is at the center of insights shared in Leading the Starbucks Way. The passion which sustains the commitment is deeply engrained in the company’s culture:

Our Customers

When we are fully engaged, we connect with, laugh with, and uplift the lives of our customers—even if just for a few moments. Sure, it starts with the promise of a perfectly made beverage, but our work goes far beyond that. It’s really about human connection.

Our Stores

When our customers feel this sense of belonging, our stores become a haven, a break from the worries outside, a place where you can meet with friends. It’s about enjoyment at the speed of life—sometimes slow and savored, sometimes faster. Always full of humanity.

Starbucks has a holistic view of sustainable innovation which highlights customers, the quality of products and the entirety of the human experience. Leaders at Starbucks appreciate that every one of their customers has a choice. They also know that a great double fudge brownie will only get you so far in business today and that brownie can be easily let down by staff who don’t innovate and improvise during customer interactions. The non-replicable “something else” often results in an experience where people want more… more magic, more fun, more excitement. Can I have my coffee with a side of that special “something else?” Why, of course you can!

How can you create that special ” something else” feeling for every customer and employee you come in contact with? How can this energy be used in other aspects of your business?

How much of that energy is driving repeat customers and referral? What can you do to enhance that?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


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