Do you want your team to deliver a loyalty-building experience for every subscriber, every time—no excuses? Have you invested your time and energy into delivering an amazing customer experience (CX), but still see opportunities for improvement?
If you answered yes, you are on a noble journey to achieve:
- Reduced service costs
- Easier customer acquisition
- Increased customer retention
- More referrals
- Expanded cross-sell opportunities
- Sustained growth
Unfortunately, choosing the most effective customer-centric path for your journey can be complicated and confusing. How can anyone achieve excellence when customers expect to receive what they want, when they want it, where they want it—in an effortless, immediate, consistent, and personalized fashion? The short answer is you must focus on a few “must-haves.”
Effectiveness: “Anticipate and meet my needs.”
Ease: “Reduce my effort.”
Emotion: “Show me you care.”
As an example, let’s look at how leaders at Starbucks position success in these areas, with an eye to how you can do the same.
The leader driving Starbucks’ vision, Howard Schultz, once said, “We are not in the coffee business serving people. We are in the people business serving coffee.” To effectively understand the needs and desires of customers, Howard launched one of the first online innovation platforms (MyStarbucksIdea.com). The site provided an opportunity for customers to submit suggestions and vote on ideas shared by others. In its first five years, MyStarbucksIdea.com captured 150,000 ideas and garnered more than two million votes. During that time, popular customer suggestions resulted in 277 products and solutions, including complimentary Wi-Fi, free birthday treats, splash sticks, cake pops, and Hazelnut Macchiato.
In 2009 Starbucks leaders looked for ways to make a customer’s payment experience easier and faster. That year they tested a QR code payment app in 16 stores. The following year, leaders modified the app to be scanner-based and tested it at 1,000 cafés located in Target stores. In 2011, Starbucks linked its loyalty program and payment app. As a result, Starbucks produced the first mobile payment solution to gain widespread acceptance in the United States. Customers began doing the unthinkable. They held their mobile phones up to 2D scanners and made retail purchases. By 2015, Starbucks launched a “mobile order and pay” solution. Two years later, mobile ordering produced $5 billion in quarterly revenue for Starbucks. During the pandemic, U.S. customers used their phones to place nearly 25 percent of all Starbucks orders.
The ideal Starbucks experience (expressed in the company’s mission) should “inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” While not every interaction leaves customers feeling nurtured or inspired, Starbucks partners are selected based on their potential to craft those emotional outcomes. Partner training focuses on “creating inspired moments in each customer’s day.” To inspire customers, partners learn how to anticipate, connect, personalize, and own the Starbucks experience.
Starbucks leaders leverage a process referred to as the “customer walk” to reinforce emotional awareness and empathy. During the walk, which rotates across store employees, one partner per shift assumes the customer perspective. That partner walks from the parking lot through an entire purchase journey. If the partner sees a messy condiment bar, he or she acts. If the partner observes a sign knocked over in the parking lot, he or she notifies a manager. The process drives enterprise awareness and responsibility for fixing elements that interfere with customers feeling nurtured or inspired.
Starbucks also relies heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) to personalize, anticipate, and optimize the customer experience. In a recent earnings call, Starbuck’s CEO Kevin Johnson shared, "Our work in AI is providing Starbucks the underlying predictive models, enabling us to fuel the great human reconnection by freeing up partners to do what they do best, connect with customers, and deliver a world-class customer experience.”
Your Experience Path
While your challenges differ from Starbucks leaders, the path to customer experience success remains the same.
- Carefully listen and observe subscriber behavior.
- Ask subscribers about their needs and solicit suggestions for product and process improvements.
- Leverage technology to enhance subscriber understanding and drive customer ease. (In the broadband industry, this is often a matter of enabling subscribers to “self-help” their home networks so they can solve issues on their own, without making a call to your customer support team.)
- Select team members who possess empathy.
- Train teams to build personal, emotional connections during service interactions.
In his early days at the helm of Starbucks, Howard Schultz set a goal for the company to expand from its single-store location in Seattle. He believed Starbucks could be a coffee chain that reached Portland, Oregon. Thanks to a focus on effectiveness, ease, and emotion, Starbucks’ leaders created an engaging customer experience that grew to Portland and beyond.
As you ignite more effectiveness, ease, and emotion … what might you achieve?
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D. is a certified customer experience professional, business consultant, and author of 10 books spotlighting brands like Starbucks, Mercedes-Benz, and Zappos. You can connect with Joseph on LinkedIn.