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2/27/2008
08:52 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Starbucks Takes Coffee Break, Makes Customer Satisfaction Gaffe

Starbucks can send me an e-mail when they reload my card -- yeah, I know I'm a sap for giving them an interest-free loan, but it's convenient -- and they can pepper me with communications when they've got a sale to promote. So how come they can't bother to clue me in when they're planning to shut their doors for three hours? Not very Web 1.0 of them, huh?

Starbucks can send me an e-mail when they reload my card -- yeah, I know I'm a sap for giving them an interest-free loan, but it's convenient -- and they can pepper me with communications when they've got a sale to promote. So how come they can't bother to clue me in when they're planning to shut their doors for three hours? Not very Web 1.0 of them, huh?The "Web 1.0" reference is deliberate, and that's just my point. I'm not expecting Starbucks' chief bean -- that'd be CEO Howard Schultz -- to stream me a video or text-message my BlackBerry with the news that he planned to lock his doors from 5:30 to 9 pm on Tuesday. (My response would of course be, "WTF?") However, I do expect some notification (a simple e-mail, maybe) that Schultz was planning the downtime, in hopes of getting his "baristas" to reconnect with coffee by training them to make better espresso.

My reason is simple enough -- Tuesday evenings are my Starbucks night. I repair there for a couple of hours, while my daughter is in her dance class. Put aside the fact that it's insane to close your stores during a prime customer period. Just focus on the fact that, like I said above, if you pepper your customers with "push" communications (i.e., crap they don't want), it's incumbent upon you to proactively reach out to them when you're got some real news.

Like, they're not gonna be able to get their preplanned caffeine jolt.

Starbucks' stumble hammers home the point that, these days, customer satisfaction kudos will go to companies who know how to use the Web (more specifically, Web- and smartphone-based communications) to their advantage.

I've long been on a rant about Starbuck's declining customer service (see my recent post, How Dell Is Far Too Much Like Starbucks) and this latest gaffe certainly doesn't fill me with hope for Starbucks' return to its days as a provider of an unparalleled customer experience.

So here's what I suggest, Howard: Wake up and smell the coffee.

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