When partners don't have enough time: Labor.

There is a movement within Starbucks to put more labor on the floors. Some partners are campaigning for this change. But let me back up. Things have changed.

My earliest memories of Starbucks go back to when it was a small business. I recall in the very early 1990s, walking into the Oak Tree Starbucks and getting a lesson on why a French press is a great way to make coffee. I was baffled. I'd never heard of making coffee without a paper filter. All I knew was the Mr. Coffee way to make coffee. I had only come in for filters. The partner stepped off the floor and spent a solid 10 minutes with me explaining why a French press was so awesome. I walked out with paper filters. I was unpersuaded by the French press education.

Today, the idea the a partner could step away from the bar and spend a full ten minutes just talking to a customer about a French press seems far fetched. Why? Because labor is so tight in the stores. Coffee tastings in the store? Not likely to find them. One store manager confided in me that he didn't think he could have the time for coffee education - such as regular store tastings - without using some of the store manager admin time for coffee education.

I'm writing about this because I genuinely care about what's happening inside the store. Make no mistake, I still have high expectations for the customer experience. I believe in it. Starbucks' own research shows time and time again that the partner-customer connection, and the gold standard customer service keeps people coming back. But how can partners deliver that experience without a moment to breathe and connect with customers?

Maybe you've noticed this at your neighborhood Starbucks: the baristas are chasing beeping things, making drinks, trying to get to the lobby, prepping whipped creams, and juggling many more things, all at once. Or maybe you haven't noticed this. You're not even seeing the behind the scenes demands: managing inventory, developing partners to grow with the company, education and coaching, deep cleaning the store, scheduling, keeping current on ever-changing promos, and much more.

The conversation began with this right here:

Lack of labor is killing morale

Nobody asked me to chime in on this. I'm simply here to say that I support the idea of putting more labor in stores and doing what it takes to create an amazing partner experience. The above essay ("Lack of labor is killing morale") written by a partner has already stirred the company. From what I know, the Starbucks Senior Leadership team has taken an interest. It wasn't too long ago that Starbucks tackled the issue of how Starbucks partners are scheduled their shifts, including eliminating the phenomenon of a close-open shift. Maybe now is the era of tackling stretched-too-thin store labor.

I often joke that in the world of Starbucks, "Yes" is almost always the right answer. That's true too for partner needs:

Yes, you need more labor.

Yes, you need a great partner experience.

 

 

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