Starbucks is unique in some ways: Customers are invited to care about what's happening in the stores and in the business. They might not expressly say anywhere, "You are invited to care," but the message is loud and clear. It's there - everywhere in the business model. As a quick aside, let me mention the inspiration for this commentary: I was reading a Facebook thread about partners and their hair color. Along the way, deep in the hundreds of intense comments, one partner asked the question, "You don't work for Starbucks. Why do you even care?" I thought, 'It doesn't matter what the original poster replies. Starbucks invites customers to care, so no partner should be surprised when customers care about the stores, the business, the people, and more.'
How does Starbucks invite caring in their stores and their business?
Starbucks invites anyone to submit an idea or suggestion to the company: They want to know your thoughts! Not many businesses have a site quite like My Starbucks Idea. There have been a number of times that Starbucks made changes or modified things related to ideas suggested on My Starbucks Idea. (A few other companies have similar sites - Dell has their "Idea Storm" website.)
Starbucks invites anyone (both customers and partners) to join in community service! This Community Service website operated by Starbucks is remarkable. Customers may find themselves side by side with store baristas, management, or corporate partners, all joining together to improve communities. I've had some great experiences volunteering with Starbucks!
Starbucks partners are given the high aspiration of creating "inspired moments" in each customer's day. It's even on the inside of the green (and black) aprons. "We create inspired moments in each customer’s day." There's no question, if customers and partners are building connections, caring will grow out of this.
In December last year, Starbucks executive Matthew Ryan gave insights on to what customers mean when they say they "love Starbucks." Starbucks own research shows that as to brand love "about half of it comes from the connection that people feel inside our stores and the partners that deliver that connection." Mr. Ryan went on to say, "It is that partner connection that is the secret sauce of our business."
This has been the culture of Starbucks since its very early years. I met up with one of the original Starbucks executives last month (and author of the book It's Not About the Coffee - Strongly recommended!!) and learned so much about the culture of the business and where it came from. Howard Behar said to me that the business is about "Human beings serving other human beings: not partners serving customers." It is a people business, and so it's should never be a surprise when customers care about what is happening with the stores, business, or individual partners.
Yesterday, in my Facebook feed I saw a tender and kind (and funny) example of the relationships that customers make with store partners. This originally appeared in an Area 10 store manager's feed (note: it was originally posted with a "public" setting.)
Today one of my customers came in and brought me a cupcake. I asked her why and she pointed at my board that said "World AIDS Day" and said "For World Helper Day. Thank you for helping me with English." Didn't quite know how to explain the difference....but I ate the cupcake.
How adorable!! I know that store manager well, I can say without a doubt, he is all about the human connection.
As to the original debate that inspired this post: I personally don't care what color hair my barista has. It's all about the human connection.