Tag Archives: Starbucks

CEOs Should Get Out of the C Suite

Starbucks Shows the Way

CEOs Should Get Out of the C Suite

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

There is a gap between the C-Suite and reality. Many leaders make decisions from their office, mistakenly believing that they understand what their company’s customers want and expect. One way to close that gap is to leave the C-Suite and take a trip to the front line. And not just once, but on a regular basis.

More than 30 years ago, I wrote my first book, Moments of Magic: Be a Star With Your Customers and Keep Them Forever. There is a chapter in the book titled Understand Your Customer. In this chapter, I shared an example from Anheuser-Busch. Back then, the world’s largest brewer had a program called “All Aboard,” in which executives went out with delivery drivers and salespeople to restaurants, taverns, liquor stores, grocery stores and anywhere else that sold beer. The goal was to hear firsthand from their customers. This put the executives in touch with reality and helped them make better customer-focused decisions.

In my most recent book, I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again, I included a similar story. It was back in November 1989 when Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, already a billionaire, was touring the product support department’s new building. Gates asked a manager, “Do you mind if I take a customer call?” According to the story, he took the phone and answered, “Hello, this is Microsoft Product Support, William speaking. How may I help you?” Of course, the call went well. So well, in fact, that the customer called back and specifically asked for “the nice man named William who straightened it (her problem) all out.”

When was the last time you heard of a billionaire CEO taking customer support calls? When have you heard of the CEO of any large company spending time on the phones in a contact center or venturing out of the office to work on the front line? That’s the reason I love the concept behind the reality TV show Undercover Boss. The CEO or president of a company does exactly what the executives at Anheuser-Busch and Bill Gates did. They just do it covertly, and it’s amazing what they learn.

Recently, I read an article in RetailWire about the new Starbucks CEO, Laxman Narasimhan, who plans to work a half shift once a month as a barista at a Starbucks café. His goal is to “promote a better connection and engagement between leadership and workers.” He wrote a letter to employees that characterized the “health” of the company as needing to be stronger despite the brand’s already strong performance.

That’s a wonderful example of a modern leader taking the time to understand what’s happening on the front line, not just with customers, but also with employees. My only suggestion is that he require his fellow C-suite leaders and VPs to do the same. Imagine how powerful a monthly meeting to compare notes from fellow executives spending time on the front lines could be!

Mark Ryski, founder and CEO of HeadCount Corporation, commented on the RetailWire article. He said, “This must be more than for ‘show’—Mr. Narasimhan sends a strong message that frontline workers and their work are important, but now he needs to live up to that commitment. Having executives get first-hand experience by working a shift is not new, but it never goes out of style. All executives should commit to spending some time working the front lines so that they can truly understand the employees’ and customers’ experience.”

So, when I’m suggesting the C-suite get out of the C-suite, it’s not to fire or replace them. It’s to get them out of their offices to move around and get to know what’s really going on with the company. If you care about your customers and employees—and I know you do—then get out of the C-suite!

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

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Fast Company is Wrong


Starbucks the Real Winner in Amazon Go Collaboration

Recently Starbucks announced a collaboration with Amazon Go on a New York City store that combines Starbucks Pickup concept with Amazon’s Go concept.

A Fast Company article titled Starbucks and Amazon team up on their first store, but I can’t see what’s in it for Starbucks tries to assert that the collaboration is ridiculously titled in favor of Amazon Go.

I respectfully disagree.

Customer Experience Learning Delivers Starbucks More Learning Than Amazon Go

Lost on Fast Company’s Mark Wilson is the incredible value to Starbucks to not only learn about Amazon’s Go technology, but more importantly to observe how their customer experience is impacted by the introduction of the Amazon Go fortress gates and related surveillance technology.

Starbucks can gather incredibly valuable customer insights from the answers to these and other questions:

  1. How does dwell time in the concept store compare to other New York City traditional Starbucks locations nearby?
  2. How is purchase size per customer visit impacted?
  3. Is there an uptick in grab ‘n’ go purchases versus Starbucks’ own grab ‘n’ go items?
  4. How do customers feel about the presence of the Amazon Go security gates and all of its necessary surveillance cameras?
  5. How does the composition of the customer experience in the Amazon Go concept test location affect visit frequency?
  6. How does the composition of the customer experience in the Amazon Go concept test location affect brand perception?
  7. How does the composition of the customer experience in the Amazon Go concept test location affect customer loyalty?

There is more to ongoing success in business than the quest for hyper-efficiency or profit above all else. Creating a valued and differentiated customer experience matters. In the same way products can become commoditized, services, and even experiences can be commoditized to.

Continuous Experimentation is Worth the Investment

Continuous experimentation is just as important for customer experience design as it is for mature product design and service design practices. Companies like Chick-fil-A, Kaiser Permanente, and OSF HealthCare have invested in facilities to prototype and test potential alterations in their service and experience delivery. I’ve had the opportunity to visit all three of these facilities in person and the privilege of advising one of these three organizations. It is harder to conduct experience experiments, but not impossible – and incredibly important.

It is because of the greater challenge of prototyping experiences and gathering accurate feedback that Starbucks stands to gain more from this collaboration with Amazon Go. And while Starbucks could easily replace Amazon Go with a competitor, Amazon isn’t likely to start their own global chain of coffee houses.

If you haven’t already come across this article, this article by Larissa Gomes is worth a read:

Amazon Go has competition: Meet 6 other automated stores transforming retail

Not mentioned in the article is startup Standard Cognition:

Final thought: You may also notice in the picture at the top of the article – if you look closely – the last minute technology investment I highlighted in my last Starbucks article.

Keep innovating!

Image credits: Starbucks

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How to Build a Change Leadership Strategy for Success

How to Build a Change Leadership Strategy for Success

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, change is not just inevitable; it’s essential. As a thought leader, drawing upon the wisdom of innovation experts like Braden Kelley, we understand that the core of successful change leadership lies in the ability to not only anticipate change but to architect it in a way that ensures the organization’s continued growth and success.

Embracing Innovation and Value Creation

Braden Kelley emphasizes innovation and value creation as the pillars of change leadership⁶. This approach requires leaders to foster an environment where innovation thrives and where the value is continuously delivered to customers and stakeholders alike.

Case Study 1: Starbucks’ Agile Transformation

Starbucks, a global coffee giant, faced a significant challenge in the late 2000s. Rapid expansion led to a dilution of their core values and a decline in customer satisfaction. The need for change was clear, and the leadership took charge with a comprehensive change management strategy¹.

Strategy Implementation:

  • Streamlining operations to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
  • Refocusing on the core business of high-quality coffee and related products.
  • Enhancing customer service to boost satisfaction and loyalty.

The implementation of these strategic changes led to a resurgence in Starbucks’ market position, with improved customer retention and a stronger brand reputation.

Case Study 2: Digital Transformation in Finance

A mid-sized financial institution, faced with outdated systems, embarked on a digital transformation journey. Resistance was natural due to the perceived disruption and costs. However, the leadership presented a compelling case for change¹.

Strategy Implementation:

  • A phased implementation plan to minimize disruption.
  • A five-year financial model projecting significant cost savings and customer acquisition growth.

The digital transformation led to operational efficiencies, cost savings, and a surge in customer satisfaction, positioning the company for future success.

Conclusion: The Path to Change Leadership Success

The journey of change leadership is complex and multifaceted. It requires a clear vision, empirical data to support decisions, and a narrative that resonates with all stakeholders. By learning from the successes and challenges of organizations like Starbucks, leaders can craft a change leadership strategy that not only navigates the complexities of transformation but also paves the way for innovation and sustained success.

In the spirit of Braden Kelley, who advocates for a human-centered approach to change and innovation, we must view change not as a hurdle but as a gateway to innovation and sustained success. By focusing on real-world applications and value creation, we can guide organizations through the transformative processes necessary for enduring success⁶⁷⁸.
It’s about evolving to meet the demands of a dynamic business environment and ensuring that change leadership is not just about managing change, but about leading it.

(1) Building a Business Case for Change Management. https://bradenkelley.com/2021/04/building-a-business-case-for-change-management/.
(2) Starbucks Change Management Case Study – CMI. https://changemanagementinsight.com/starbucks-change-management-case-study/.
(3) Stoking the fire for innovation excellence: an interview with Braden Kelley. https://www.thedigitaltransformationpeople.com/channels/strategy-and-innovation/stoking-the-fire-for-innovation-excellence-an-interview-with-braden-kelley/.
(4) Braden Kelley | Human-Centered Change and Innovation. https://bradenkelley.com/author/braden-kelley/.
(5) Change Management: Articles, Research, & Case Studies on Change …. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/Pages/browse.aspx?HBSTopic=Change%20Management.
(6) Leading Change: Articles, Research, & Case Studies on Leading Change …. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/Pages/browse.aspx?HBSTopic=Leading%20Change.
(7) Five Case Studies of Transformation Excellence – Boston Consulting Group. https://www.bcg.com/publications/2014/transformation-change-management-five-case-studies-transformation-excellence.
(8) Transformational Change with Case Studies | CIPD. https://www.cipd.org/uk/knowledge/reports/change-theory-practice-report/.
(9) Braden Kelley – Medium. https://changes.medium.com/.
(10) Braden Kelley – Human-Centered Change and Innovation. https://bradenkelley.com/.

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Measuring and Tracking Customer Experience Metrics for Continuous Improvement

Measuring and Tracking Customer Experience Metrics for Continuous Improvement

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

Customer experience (CX) is rapidly gaining importance as a key differentiator in today’s competitive business landscape. Organizations that prioritize customer satisfaction and loyalty have experienced improved profitability and market success. To achieve sustainable growth, businesses must measure and track key customer experience metrics. This article explores how businesses can leverage CX metrics for continuous improvement, supported by real-world case studies.

Case Study 1: Zappos – Leveraging Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Zappos, the renowned online shoe retailer, is widely regarded as a customer-centric organization. In their quest to measure CX metrics effectively, Zappos adopted the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology. NPS measures customer loyalty by asking a single question: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” Based on customers’ responses, they are classified into three categories:

1. Promoters (score 9-10): Loyal enthusiasts who fuel positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
2. Passives (score 7-8): Satisfied customers but vulnerable to competitive offerings.
3. Detractors (score 0-6): Unhappy customers who can damage the brand’s reputation.

By consistently tracking NPS scores, Zappos ensures their CX initiatives align with customer expectations. Continuously improving the customer experience has been a key factor in their remarkable success.

Case Study 2: Starbucks – Measuring Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Starbucks, the global coffeehouse chain, places great emphasis on measuring customer satisfaction as part of their ongoing commitment to superior service. To understand and improve CX, Starbucks relies on Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) surveys conducted through their loyalty program.

By monitoring CSAT scores, Starbucks gains valuable insights into their customers’ perceptions and preferences. They identify areas for improvement, enabling them to continuously enhance the customer experience. Moreover, they link CSAT scores with specific stores, allowing managers to address any issues promptly and deliver exceptional service.

Key Customer Experience Metrics for Continuous Improvement:

While NPS and CSAT are two popular customer experience metrics, businesses should consider additional metrics based on their specific industry and customer journey. Here are some key metrics worth monitoring:

1. Customer Effort Score (CES): Measures the ease of customers’ interactions with a company. Low-effort experiences enhance customer loyalty.
2. Customer Churn Rate: Helps identify the percentage of customers leaving over a given period, emphasizing the need to address pain points.
3. First Response Time (FRT): Pertains to customer inquiries or complaints—timely responses contribute to positive experiences.
4. Average Handling Time (AHT): Evaluates the efficiency of customer service and support, aiming for shorter handling times without compromising quality.
5. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Predicts the net profit attributed to the entire relationship with a customer, guiding long-term CX strategies.

Continuous Improvement through CX Metrics:

To drive continuous improvement effectively, businesses should follow a few essential steps:

1. Collect and analyze relevant data: Regularly measure and track CX metrics using surveys, feedback forms, social listening tools, and other data collection methods.
2. Identify areas for improvement: Actively listen to customer feedback, identify pain points, and prioritize actions based on their potential impact.
3. Empower employees: Equip employees with the necessary tools, training, and resources to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
4. Implement changes and measure outcomes: Execute targeted initiatives and closely monitor the impact of changes on CX metrics to ensure efficacy.
5. Adapt and iterate: Continually reassess customer needs, refine strategies, and adapt to evolving trends to maintain a competitive edge.


Measuring and tracking customer experience metrics is vital for businesses seeking continuous improvement. Companies like Zappos and Starbucks demonstrate the power of CX metrics in delivering superior customer experiences. By leveraging relevant metrics and acknowledging customer feedback, organizations can create stronger long-term customer relationships, differentiate themselves from competitors, and achieve sustainable growth.

SPECIAL BONUS: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Starbucks Upgrading the Last Minute of the Mobile Ordering Journey

Starbucks Upgrading the Last Minute of the Mobile Ordering Journey

Starbucks is definitely regarded as an innovator in the mobile commerce and loyalty space.

Starbucks was one of the first retailers (2008) to successfully introduce a card-based loyalty program with broad adoption – the Starbucks card – which not only had loyalty benefits for customers but also could be used as a means of payment.

Building from this, Starbucks created a mobile app early in the smartphone era that mirrored many of the capabilities of the Starbucks card, allowing people to not only pay with their mobile phone (backed by a credit card), but to check their points and payment balances.

Starbucks then launched mobile order & pay in Portland near the end of 2014 before beginning to release it more broadly in 2015.

All of Starbucks’ loyalty and mobile technology inventions positioned the company quite well to survive the COVID-19 shutdowns around the world.

Starbucks Mobile Ordering

Personally I try to keep as many apps OFF my phone as possible. So, it wasn’t until the coronavirus restrictions that I finally caved in and downloaded the Starbucks app. The reason?

Given the pandemic, the last thing I wanted to do was stand around in an enclosed space with suspect ventilation waiting for my Starbucks beverage any longer than I had do. So, I downloaded the app and began ordering my drink from the car and waiting 4-5 minutes (or longer if they looked busy) before going inside to get my drink.

What I found annoying though was that the app gave an estimate that often was in the 15-23 minute range, despite the fact that it rarely took more than five minutes, and there was no notification when my drink was ready.

I started designing a better approach in my mind, and was about to suggest it to Starbucks when I happened upon what is likely a pilot in one of my local Starbucks. It looks like this:

Starbucks Mobile Order Board

At this particular pilot Starbucks they have this flat screen that shows the people who have mobile orders placed (in alphabetical order) and then the Starbucks employee at the end of the line has a tablet they manage.

When an order is complete, the Starbucks employee updates the order status to ‘READY’ on the tablet, the image on the board changes to show a READY indicator, and a text message is sent to the person’s phone.

When the customer picks up their order, then the Starbucks employee marks it ‘PICKED UP’ on the tablet so that the person’s name is removed from the board.

This is very close to the idea that I was going to propose, but with one big exception.

My idea was to suggest printing out an enhanced bar code that could be scanned at the end of the line by the barista to trigger the text message – instead of using a tablet and a screen. This could have been a much simpler and cheaper approach both in terms of technology and labor.

Either way, there is no doubt that Starbucks continues to experiment and push for improvements in the last minute of the mobile ordering journey to create a great experience. This enables them to keep their employees and customers healthy and safe, and keep Starbucks ahead of their competition.

Keep innovating!

Image (2) credit: Digitaltrends.com

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The Role of Data Analytics in Enhancing Customer Experience

The Role of Data Analytics in Enhancing Customer Experience

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

In today’s business landscape, customer experience has become a critical factor in maintaining a competitive edge. Organizations strive to provide seamless, personalized experiences to meet their customers’ evolving expectations. To achieve this, many businesses are turning to data analytics. Leveraging the power of data, organizations can gain valuable insights into customer behavior, preferences, and pain points. In this thought leadership article, we will explore the role of data analytics in enhancing customer experience through two compelling case study examples.

Case Study 1: Amazon’s Personalized Recommendations

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has mastered the power of data analytics to enhance customer experience. By collecting vast amounts of customer data, such as browsing history, purchase patterns, and product ratings, Amazon has developed a robust recommendation system. This system uses complex algorithms to analyze and predict customer preferences, enabling personalized product recommendations for each user.

Through data analytics, Amazon can identify patterns in customer behavior, offering timely and relevant product suggestions. This enhances the customer experience by reducing search time, increasing purchase satisfaction, and ultimately driving customer loyalty. By constantly analyzing the data generated by their customers’ interactions, Amazon can continuously refine their recommendations, ensuring they remain accurate and valuable.

Case Study 2: Starbucks’ Mobile App

Starbucks, the global coffee giant, has demonstrated the power of data analytics in redefining the customer experience through its mobile app. The app collects extensive data on each customer’s purchasing habits, including the time of day, preferred drinks, and location. Leveraging this data, Starbucks can tailor recommendations, send personalized promotions, and offer convenient features to enhance the customer journey.

For example, the Starbucks app uses geolocation data to suggest nearby stores, based on customers’ current location. It also allows pre-ordering and payment, reducing wait times and streamlining the customer experience. By analyzing the data generated by the app’s usage, Starbucks gains insights into customer preferences, improving operational efficiency, and ultimately delighting their customers.

Benefits of Data Analytics in Customer Experience Enhancement

The case studies above highlight the substantial benefits that data analytics can bring to enhancing customer experience. By leveraging data analytics effectively, organizations can:

1. Personalize the Customer Journey: Through data analytics, companies gain a deeper understanding of customer preferences, habits, and pain points. Armed with this knowledge, organizations can deliver personalized experiences, tailored to individual needs and preferences.

2. Improve Operational Efficiency: Data analytics helps identify process bottlenecks, optimize resource allocation, and streamline operations. By identifying areas for improvement, organizations can enhance efficiency, enabling faster response times, and more seamless interactions with customers.

3. Enhance Customer Loyalty: Providing exceptional customer experiences fosters loyalty and drives repeat business. By leveraging data analytics to predict customer needs, organizations can proactively address pain points, offer personalized promotions, and ensure a consistent and delightful customer journey.


In an increasingly competitive business landscape, customer experience has become a key differentiator. Data analytics plays a vital role in enabling organizations to enhance customer experiences in meaningful ways. Through personalized recommendations, streamlined processes, and optimizing operations, companies can leverage the power of data analytics to drive customer loyalty and satisfaction. The case studies of Amazon and Starbucks demonstrate the remarkable impact data analytics can have on enhancing customer experiences. Organizations that embrace data analytics as a core driver for enhancing customer experience will undoubtedly excel in today’s customer-centric world.

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Pixabay

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The Power of Emotional Connections in Customer Experience

The Power of Emotional Connections in Customer Experience

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

In today’s competitive business landscape, organizations are constantly seeking ways to stand out and create memorable experiences for their customers. While product quality and efficient service are undoubtedly essential, there is another significant factor that can make a lasting impact on a customer’s journey – emotional connections.

Emotional connections in customer experience refer to the ability of a brand to tap into customers’ emotions, creating meaningful interactions that leave a lasting impression. When a customer feels a genuine connection with a brand, they are more likely to remain loyal, recommend it to others, and become advocates. Let’s explore two case studies that showcase the power of emotional connections in customer experience.

Case Study 1: Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign

Dove, a personal care brand, launched its “Real Beauty” campaign in 2004 with a mission to redefine beauty standards and promote self-acceptance. The campaign featured women of different ages, sizes, and ethnicities, focusing on real-life beauty rather than unrealistic beauty ideals portrayed in the media. By showcasing the diversity and authenticity of its customers, Dove successfully created an emotional connection with women worldwide.

This campaign resonated deeply with consumers who had long felt excluded or misrepresented in traditional beauty advertisements. People saw themselves, their mothers, sisters, and friends in Dove’s messaging, leading to a surge in positive sentiments towards the brand. The emotional connection established through the campaign resulted in increased brand loyalty and a significant boost in sales. Dove’s Real Beauty campaign demonstrated that by speaking to customers’ emotions and challenging societal norms, a brand can become a catalyst for positive change.

Case Study 2: Starbucks’ Personalized Customer Experience

Starbucks is renowned for the personalized customer experience it provides. Beyond serving a great cup of coffee, the company aims to create a comfortable atmosphere where customers can enjoy their drinks. One example of Starbucks’ commitment to emotional connections is the practice of writing customers’ names on cups. By personalizing each cup, Starbucks employees create a sense of recognition and importance for the customers.

In 2014, the company launched its “Meet Me at Starbucks” campaign, which featured short documentaries capturing genuine moments of human connection in their stores across the world. The emotionally-driven campaign highlighted Starbucks as a place where people can find common ground and connect with others. By showcasing the emotional value that Starbucks brings to people’s lives, the campaign reinforced the brand’s commitment to creating meaningful experiences for their customers.

Starbucks’ personalized approach and focus on emotional connections helped differentiate the company from its competitors. Customers often feel a sense of belonging and familiarity with Starbucks, making it their preferred choice even when competing options exist.


The examples of Dove and Starbucks showcase the impact emotional connections can have on customer experience. By understanding and addressing customers’ emotions, brands can become more than just a product or service provider. Companies that successfully build emotional connections foster loyalty, advocacy, and long-term customer relationships.

Creating emotional connections requires understanding customers’ values, aspirations, and pain points. Listening to their feedback and incorporating it into brand messaging and experiences allows companies to connect with customers at a deeper level. By emphasizing authenticity, inclusivity, and personalized experiences, brands can build emotional connections that transcend transactional relationships, leading to meaningful and enduring customer loyalty.

SPECIAL BONUS: Braden Kelley’s Problem Finding Canvas can be a super useful starting point for doing design thinking or human-centered design.

“The Problem Finding Canvas should help you investigate a handful of areas to explore, choose the one most important to you, extract all of the potential challenges and opportunities and choose one to prioritize.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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Are Gas Stations the Future of Starbucks?

Are Gas Stations the Future of Starbucks?

Recently the Seattle Times published an article from the Washington Post highlighting a gas station in Maryland that has made the bold move of turning off its gas pumps and installing electric charging stations in their place. Which got me thinking…

Given that in the early days of automobiles you had to go to the pharmacy and buy gasoline in open containers before an evolution began to curbside gas pumps before finally arriving at the drive thru format we have today, why would it be crazy to think that we are due for the next reinvention of refueling now that electric vehicles are beginning to catch on?

And what might a “gas” station v5.0 look like?
(the first four generations being pharmacy, curbside, drive thru full serve, and self serve)

Curbside Gas Station

Given that it takes 15-30 minutes to quickly recharge an electric car, a “gas” station v5.0 may very well end up looking like a Starbucks.

Are people going to want to hang out in their cars while they recharge?

Wouldn’t they rather chill out in a Starbucks sipping on a latte (or a hot chocolate) while they wait for enough juice to keep rolling down the road?

So shouldn’t Starbucks be considering entering the “gas” station business?

Or is the somewhat random growth of electric charging likely to continue?

The answer for me is of course both…

In urban environments I would imagine the trend of a lot of one-off charging stations to continue.

But if I were Starbucks I would look at the interstate highway system and consciously set up Starbucks locations next to gas stations and install electric vehicle charging stations as part of the design. That way you get business from the large number of internal combustion drivers and the small number of electric vehicle drivers now, while those numbers gradually invert over time.

Starbucks Electric Charting Station

Maybe Starbucks could even do a deal with Tesla Motors like they did with Fred Meyer (a small superstore chain with groceries that is part of the Kroger family). Or maybe Nissan or GM want to get in on the action instead.

What do you think?

Image credits: Starbucks, American Oil & Gas Historical Society, Chargepoint

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Fix the Problem or Design it Out?

Fix the Problem or Design it Out?

Let’s start with the problem.

According to The Plastic Pollution Coalition (January 3, 2017) – “It’s National Drinking Straw Day! Each day, more than 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded in the U.S. alone. Plastic straws consistently make the top ten list of items found, according to Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup data. In the last three years, plastic straws have climbed the list to the Number 5 spot.”

The Paper Straw Movement

In response to this growing problem, in January California made it illegal to give customers plastic straws unless they expressly request one.

Another way some restaurants have tried to to fix this problem has been to replace plastic straws with paper straws.

Or then there is the tasty fix to the problem, the cookie straw.

Starbucks Cookie Straw

But there is another way to approach problem solving, and that is to design out the problem instead of trying to fix it.

Recently a barista at Starbucks accidentally gave me a lid on my water cup that I wasn’t expecting.

I had heard that Starbucks was planning to reduce their use of the iconic green plastic straw, but I kind of assumed that meant they were shifting to paper straws like some other quick serve restaurants, but that is not what they have in mind at all.

Starbucks is instead planning to eliminate the plastic straw.

Instead of focusing on the straw they instead chose to focus on the lid and design it in a way that a straw isn’t even necessary.

Starbucks Sippy Cup

So, next time you’re wrestling with a problem and trying to solve it, look at it in a slightly different way just for fun, try asking yourself how you could design the product, service, or experience (or all three) in order to design out the problem.

You may or may not get to a more viable, desirable, and feasible solution than trying to fix the problem.

But, looking at the problem from a range of different perspectives is always worth the effort.

Keep innovating!

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Starbucks Train Making Connections with Customers

Starbucks Train Making Connections with Customers

What happens in Switzerland if you forget to buy your latte or cappuccino before you get on the train?

Well, Starbucks has taken the next leap in connecting with customers as they make their rail connections, moving beyond retail locations in train stations across Europe to opening its first store on a Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) car, the national railway line for Switzerland.

Starbucks Train InteriorThe new Starbucks train café is one of the smallest the company has ever designed, and they have managed to include space for 50 people, baristas, a pastry case, standing bar, and a lounge area, all tastefully assembled into a two level train car.

This latest Starbucks retail twist may only be a test, and the first of its kind for the company, but it now officially puts them in planes, trains, and automobiles, and is a smart way to extend the customer relationship and maintain their connection with existing customers while also possibly building new ones in a captive audience situation.

It’s a smart move for Starbucks to test this format even if it fails like Amazon Tote.

Starbucks Train CustomersIt’s incredibly important for companies like Starbucks that sell daily indulgences to be in the places where people are looking to enjoy that little treat, and with the level of quality increasing (at least in the coffee experience) at competitors like Dunkin Donuts, McCafe, Caribou Coffee, and others, Starbucks has to do everything they can to reinforce their premium image and customer loyalty.

The questions every retailer (or business for that matter) must continuously ask themselves include:

1. What type of customer relationship do we have?
2. What type of relationship does the customer have with our product or service?
3. What products and services do we have our customers’ permission to provide?
4. Where do our customers want us to be?

If you have a copy of my popular five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, you can dig into the ideas behind these questions more in Appendix A where I look at a number of different “Customer Relationship Types” and “Levels of Customer Permission” in an effort to help you maximize the customer relationship

If you are looking for additional opportunities to serve your customers, maintain existing customer loyalty, and to build new customer relationships, you might also want to check out Appendix B in Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, where I get into my framework for visualizing the customer purchasing journey and my framework for visualizing the core business operations that support the customer purchasing journey.

And then when you’ve got some ideas that you want to possibly pursue, you might want to run them through The Innovation Baker’s Dozen framework in Appendix C.

There is a lot of great content hidden in the book in various places, which is why it has done so well, and this exploration of the new Starbucks Train is the perfect time to highlight some of the insights captured in the appendices.

So, ask yourself the four questions above, check out the appendices, think about what Starbucks has done with their espresso train and let me know what you come up with!

Here is the official video announcing the Starbucks and SBB collaboration on the Starbucks train experience:

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