Starbucks’ store around the US will close today at 530PM local time to “conduct a nationwide education event, designed to energize partners and transform the customer experience.” Stores with evening hours will re-open at 9PM after some 135,000 employees in the company’s 7,100 US stores go through satellite based re-education.
Starbuck’s Chair Howard Shultz took back the seat as CEO of the company recently after lamenting in a long memo (made public, of course) expressing concerns that the company’s product quality and customer experience was slipping – the experience was becoming “commoditized”. You see, Starbuck’s is as much about the experience as it is about the coffee. The model for the Starbuck’s cafes are the Italian coffee shops, where people will linger for hours, to work, people watch, and be with friends.
I view this as a positive move. No doubt, there will be grumblings and disdain from all too many employees who want to be too “cool” to do things the way the company wants things done. I’d suggest that the atmosphere and service that Shultz strives for is what has made the company so attractive, why the stores are often busy will people at tables and a line, and pays the bills. Personally, I find Starbuck’s a place to get away and think, even with the bustle around me. It’s also a good place for business meetings (as many will attest!).
Leaders need to remind and reinvigorate the employees that certain things are important to the company, and this is what is why we hired you. Starbucks wants a neighborhood feel. Southwest Airlines wants people who are upbeat and smile a lot. Good luck, Howard. I’ll se you in the morning.