Boiling down to the barista – Starbucks, Peets, Coffee Bean

Coffee shop brands are arguably more susceptible to passionate followers than most other high street brands.

As a regular Coffee Bean (CB) customer I will pass a few Starbucks (SB) on my search for a CB store and – horror of horrors – settle on SB if a convenient CB store cannot be found on my quest for the perfect cuppa tea.

Although my thirst and caffeine cravings may be quenched by either stores’ offerings (or Peets, Seattle Best, Einsteins, Dunkin’ Donuts, any other coffee shop) I tend to feel less satisfied if I don’t get to buy from *my* Coffee Bean brand. I curse Coffee Bean for not being more convenient, I lament the proliferation of Starbucks and I begrudgingly drink my SB cup of tea with slight disappointment.

Fast forward to today. I’m in Westwood (home of UCLA “fight, fight, fight!”) and I pop into a convenient SB near Wilshire and join the long line to order my ‘cuppa’.

The time in line gives me the opportunity to observe the 6 baristas behind the counter moving ensemble; greeting, fulfilling and serving the continuous stream of customers.

It’s awesome to watch!

No matter what the brand, or what my brand preference, one has to admire the seamless and confident way this team handled a hectic and potentially toxic workflow. Toxic? Not in the poisonous sense, rather the potential for upset, irate and / or dissatisfaction is high. One busy executive getting the wrong concoction, one tired student unhappy with their brew…

What impressed me about this workflow is how closely it mirrors a website experience.

Presentation: As I walked in, the level of excitement and energy was palatable… it made the first impression comfortable and welcoming.

Environment: The music, the subtle cross-sell, the display of food items (except for the breakfast sandwiches!), the economical use of space, contributed to the perception of a smooth passage of time as opposed to the 7 minutes wait it was.

Efficiency / usability: The ‘order taker’ baristas made certain what I said was repeated (to ensure it was correct), was exact (what I wanted), and was relayed to the fulfillment side of the business efficiently, and all this with a smile. No conveyor belt salutations or canned responses “have a nice day” was notably absent (thank you!). The process was simple and almost fun.

Delivery: Quick, efficient and correct. It’s not brain surgery to meet a customers’ expectations. Many businesses fail, simply because they complicate the process. Welcome – ask – confirm – produce – deliver. Easy.

Experience: All these facets of seamless and seemingly effortless service contributed to a great experience.

At the end of the day, no matter the product, customers seek an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations in delivering a product, service, or information that satisfies their needs.

A Starbucks may be a great offline example due to its focused product, consistent environment, brand messaging and solid in-store programs, but these elements are easy to duplicate online to create an exceptional and consistent online experience.

Stop into your local coffee shop and see how aligning an exceptional experience with your online goals can create the kind of experience your site visitors expect.

An orange spice with one equal for me, please.

4 replies
  1. chuckypita
    chuckypita says:

    Whew! That’s a pretty insightful analysis. I’d never pay much attention to the whole stream of efficiency – Just give me my dang Hot Chocolate! (Not a caffeine drinker)

    I oughta pay more attention to your posts though. I could definetely use a more “user friendly” experience for my blogs.

  2. Mark
    Mark says:

    That’s an interesting observation. Unlike your experience it seems to me that I too frequently manage to select(?) the outlier Starbuck’s franchises. That is my very simple request for a triple shot semi-dry cappucino frequently results in what I (even as a Brit) would consider to be a drowned latte. So I would suggest that there is a lack of consistency in the application of these principles across stores.

  3. Grant
    Grant says:

    Thanks for posting.

    Biggest challenge of any large organization is consistency of experience.

    I was lucky enough to have witnessed a perfect ‘brand-aligned’ example of Starbucks’ touchpoints at work.

    Consistency with the human element is a monumental task (hiring practices, training, accountability, management, mentorship, encouragement, motivation etc.) the great news about a website consumer touchpoint is the opportunity to create a much more consistent experience, repeatable, measurable and controllable.

    With only one opportunity to make a first impression on the web, getting it right with an exceptional goal-driven experience is key.


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