Starbucks Is Customer-Centric Because It Listened

Starbucks Listens to Customers

Editor’s note: One Raven customer and agency owner assures potential customers, “We know every client by first name, and that’s how you’ll know us.” Many agencies promise personal attention; they use tools, like Raven software, to buy them time to build such relationships. But what does the client think? That’s what CustomerThink founder and CEO Bob Thompson explores in this article.

Lately I’ve noticed an increase in discussion about “customer-centricity.” If ever there was a more nebulous term than CRM, this is it.

Is customer-centricity a strategy? A state of mind? A method for segmenting customers? Fortunately, no one is defining customer-centricity as technology… yet.

I think the answer is painfully simple: customer-centricity is in the eye of the beholder – the customer.

If you’re providing the products, services, experiences and pricing that customers value, odds are they’ll consider your company customer-centric. At least, that’s what Dick Lee and David Mangen concluded in a CustomerThink-supported study a few years ago.

But every customer is different.

For example, Apple is one of the world’s top brands and usually scored at or near the top of loyalty studies. Great products + great experiences = customer-centric, right?

Not for Maz Igbal and others (including me) who are disappointed if not outright disgusted with how Foxconn, an iPhone supplier in China, treats its workers. Maz recently wrote: “Apple is a great organisation and it fails greatly when it comes to Ethics.” To Maz, Apple is not customer-centric. Period.

One Definition of Customer-Centric

Starbucks is another company that most consider customer-centric. But recently, I felt let down by our local Starbucks.

You see, several times a week my wife and I go for a walk in our neighborhood, and we usually buy a coffee and latte. I hate to add up our monthly bill, but I’m pretty sure it’s greater than my health club membership.

Anyway, since we tended to stop in the evening, we started noticing that about 30 minutes before the store officially closed, employees brought the tables and chairs from outside and piled them up inside the store. Frankly, it made the store look like “we’re closing” and customers weren’t welcome. After a few experiences like this, I decided to do something about it.

Starbucks prominently displays a feedback card “Share your thoughts with us” and listed a variety of ways to give feedback. Including, believe it or not, the personal name, phone and email address of the district manager. So I wrote a polite but pointed email to the manager one evening. I’m not going to post the entire email here, but here’s a key point I made:

“I feel that if we come into a store 10 minutes before closing, we should feel just as welcome as the middle of the day.”

Well, I’m happy to report I got an email response in less than 24 hours. He thanked me for the feedback and said he’d review with the store manager.

But it gets better.

Not only did Starbucks listen, they did something. Fast!

That evening, and all the evenings since then (I checked) the tables and chairs were left outside until closing. And what do you know, there were customers actually using them!

Starbucks is customer-centric because it listened… to ME.

Photo Credit: Timefortea3 via photopin cc