Starbucks Experience and the New Economy

We all heard the hype generated by Starbuck's 3.5 hour shut-down on Wednesday. I'm sure now, many of us are wondering if steps the company is taking will restore and renew the "coffee experience" to save more than 100 poorly performing stores in their 7100 store chain.

If you didn't hear about this, you can read all about this here.

I tip my hat to CEO, Howard Shultz for making time to properly rally the troops and train people to bolster the Starbuck's experience. It was an interesting decision to conduct this training during normal business hours, when it could have easily been done before or after hours: Using the shut-down during normal business hours is a highly promotable move -- and it does underscore to the public the company's heartfelt desire to better the quality of the product.

What I want to know is whether retraining baristas to create a better latte is going to cure the ills the company faces?

As the leader in the coffee experience, Starbucks set the bar high, and has succeeded through innovation for years. However, what we know in Customer Experience Management is that those who set the bar don't always have an easy time of things: The standard they set soon becomes the norm. As such, the experience leader must consistently raise the standard to create better experience and retain a loyal and enthusiastic customer base. Meanwhile, the competitors forego some of the experimentation and investment raising the bar requires, and merely copy the leader...and so it goes...

Raising the quality bar is a great move... but is it enough?

I can't help but wonder, how Starbucks can raise the bar in an increasingly sagging economy?

The link I posted above serves as an excellent reinforcement for this point. Check out the "Related" vignette on the left-side of the body copy in the article: It is called "Eye on the Economy".

I don't want to get all "doomsday" here.... but the truth is this: In yesterday's economy, I didn't think much about my daily $4 cup of coffee (or two of them and a snack!). In today's and tomorrow's - I will probably be more careful with my dollars - and so will many other people! If every loyal customer cut back to one latte per week what would happen to revenues?

It will be really interesting to watch and see what happens as Starbucks adjusts to these market conditions.

Heading for a FREEconomy?

This week, a ton of reports on inflation, unemployment and other economic indicators are slated to hit Wall Street. While the financial world braces, everyday Americans don't need data to tell them the economy is in the crapper!

Beyond the gas pump, we're beginning to feel it in other areas now. Some of us may even realize that we have some choices to make: We can grab our tax rebates and continue to spend -- OR we can do the smart thing and scale back a little, simplify - or maybe even get out of debt! What we're feeling here in America is surely going to hit other markets, too - as our spending ability (and willingness) decline and impact the economy of producing nations.

Beyond the economy, an increasing number of people are becoming overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the "stuff" they own. We aren't just over stimulated by media messages, but by the physical things we accumulate. This doesn't just influence us to give stuff away -- it makes us want to spend less.

Therefore, I suspect, in the near future, we'll be seeing a new trend in marketing and customer experience targeted to folks of all economic ranges who are beginning to scale back, spend less, simplify and economize.

Interestingly, this will have a direct influence on what Reinier Evers, founder of Trendwatching calls "FREE LOVE" in this month's trendwatching report. According to Evers, the Free Love trend is defined as follows:

FREE LOVE: the ongoing rise of free, valuable stuff that's available to consumers online and offline. From AirAsia tickets to Wikipedia, and from diapers to music.

FREE LOVE thrives on an all-out war for consumers' ever-scarcer attention and the resulting new business models and marketing techniques, but also benefits from the ever-decreasing costs of producing physical goods, the post-scarcity dynamics of the online world (and the related avalanche of free content created by attention-hungry members of GENERATION C), the many C2C marketplaces enabling consumers to swap instead of spend, and an emerging recycling culture.

The trendwatching report will fill you in on the astonishing amount of free goodies there are to be had, from wireless, national and international phone service, free airline tickets, free food & beverages, car rentals, photo prints, textbooks, travel guides, wifi, gps, stock photography, notes, photocopies, financial management, games, bikes, music, vacation homes... and much more.

According to trendwatching, the rise in free love is attributed to a number of factors and I agree with all of them. It even addresses how my own increased desire to get rid of our crap and clutter plays into the free love phenomena (swap - not spend...etc).

My only critique of this excellent briefing is that it doesn't seem include the economy as an influencing factor in the expansion of the free love trend. I am positive it will have a direct impact. Whatever the case, the report is FREE! Read it to get goodies, or do it for the ideas - but read it!

Also, check out this month's WIRED magazine's headline story "FREE"! Happy reading!

Feng with my Fries

Guess where I am: Here's a hint. It's a restaurant you have probably visited at least once in your life.

I walk in to the sound of water running down glass panels. There is a sculpture of a crane on one side - a coi fish on the other. The room is light and airy with colors in earth tones and accents of red. Bamboo plants grace the scene. I am intrigued by textured walls patterned to resemble the ocean and the asymmetrical tiling. The seating is leather and lounge like. It's comfortable and very Zen.

If you guessed a sushi restaurant, sorry! Thank you for playing.

Nope, believe it or not, I'm in McDonald's in Hacienda Heights, California. Just one of several restaurants in the chain who are rethinking brick and mortar experience and putting the Chinese art of Feng Shui in practice. You can read about this here.

I am a big supporter of brand reinvention...and this is an interesting twist on the Mc Donald's I grew up with. I can't wait to see how this plays out over time.

I understand they've even adjusted door placement to block out evil spirits! Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder what magic they may be doing to block the artery clogging fat and cholesterol found in their food? Alas, until this happens, McDonald's will be unable to lure me as a customer.

In the day of third-place thinking... it will be interesting to see how this drives increased revenue in the future - and whether this trend continues.

Good Reading Experience!

My good friend, Ann Handley, former brainchild at ClickZ and more recently, Chief Content Officer for has started a new personal weblog called "Annarchy".

I've gotta say - I'm stoked. Ann is an incredible writer and a total HOOT (hence my "Hootennannie" pun). She's also a student of customer experience herself. Check out two of her recent posts "A Virgin in Hollister" and "Hey Pretty Lady". I love reading her personal musings and bet you will, too. Her posts are always a real treat! Enjoy!





TwitterLinkedInYouTubePosterousFacebook G+


I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


The Customer Experience Edge


Age of Conversation 3 - Get yours now in hardcover, paperback and for the Kindle.


Web Redesign: Workflow that Works