Learning from Corporate America: Starbucks Closes Nationwide for Training

On February 26, 2008 if you tried to get your usual Grande Carmel Machiato from Starbucks between 5:30 and 9pm you were out of luck. In a historic move Starbucks closed nearly 7,100 stores for 3 1/2 hours to conduct mandatory training for more than 135,000 employees.

From the Starbucks Web site, “That amounts to almost a half a million hours of training in one night.

My first thought on hearing this announcement was publicity stunt. Why do you need to close for training? Why can’t you do it before or after closing or off site? I learned though that this was more than training in how to make a cup of coffee. According to the Starbucks Web site this was “a nationwide education event, designed to energize [employees] and transform the customer experience.”

It seems that most of the employees agreed. Some comments from employees on the Starbucks Gossip Blog:

I’ve just returned home from my stores espresso excellence training and I feel that as a whole we are re-energized and more passionate mostly about customer care. I really liked the team commitments at the end for us to hold one another accountable and this as much better then other store meetings because we got to move around the store as groups and we had fun! Posted by: Aaron | Feb 26, 2008 6:40:20 PM

Soo, I just got back from my meeting. It was amazing. I feel inspired in every way. I hope other baristas feel the same. Posted by: Neevan | Feb 26, 2008 6:54:53 PM

I just got home from the training session and I have to say it was great. It put us all on the same page and let all of us know that the standards have been raised and we WILL be held accountable for it. Not everyone remembers it. This meeting wasn’t to teach us how to make coffee and thats what a lot of people are missing. This was about making the BEST cup we can EVERYTIME, no exceptions. It was about how to give you customers what you pay for and more. Not to mention it laid down some new guidelines to make sure that if the customer does not get what THEY think is the perfect cup of coffee WE WILL MAKE IT UNTIL YOU ARE SATISFIED. We learned the vision of Howard and what he expects of us as a whole company so that not just some stores but ALL of them are doing the best everytime. I personally thought it was informative and helpful, especially to the new hires in our store who don’t know yet what they need to do and reminded all of us how to provide our customers with a place they want to be. To be perfectly honest with you I think that there are a lot of baristas out there (and if you have read some of their posts you know what I’m talking about) that we are not only in the coffee business but also the PEOPLE business. Posted by: | Feb 26, 2008 7:17:42 PM

Hi Everyone!!! Training tonight was great, what I felt would be just a refresher on the new flavor profile and proper steaming of milk, foam ratio, etc., ended up being more of a conversation on what we can do to accommodate and create a better experience for our customers. Posted by: buck star | Feb 26, 2008 9:36:18 PM

I freakin loved the meeting tonight. It’s like Starbucks Experience. it really re energized my passion for my job and my pride in my drinks, my service and the company as a while. I can’t wait to work on the floor again!! Posted by: Staxman | Feb 26, 2008 10:36:09 PM

I admire the courage of the company’s leadership to close every store, not just their doors, but their cash register as well, and then pay all their employees to attend a training session in order to improve the customer experience. Can you think of any other company that would spend that kind of money and time to improve their product? Can you imagine an airline stopping all flights for a day and requiring their employees to spend the time focusing on the passenger experience? Good for you Starbucks!! Posted by: | Feb 26, 2008 8:50:49 PM

So I have to ask, when was the last time you received comments like that on a training evaluation? What would it take for libraries to have all staff committed to the customer experience? What can we learn from Starbucks?

Remember this phone number!


If you are away from your computer and need a question answered here’s a service that will do it for you. The company is Look Up Web for Me. It’s a toll free call and a free service. You name the question and they look up the answer.

I decided to test the service out. I called and was put on hold while a “Search Maestro” was located for me. By the way Search Maestros get paid $10-15 per hour and work from home! I was on hold for a few seconds then Jen answered my call. Pleasant and easy to understand Jen was willing to look up pretty much anything I asked. When I first read about the service through a question posed by founder Altaf Boghani on LinkedIn, I was a little suspicious. It sounds too good to be true. Right now the service is privately funded and I wonder how they will generate income in the future. Maybe it will be via phone ads as Google 411 plans to.

In all it’s a great idea. I can’t tell you how many times I have called home, a friend, or even the library to have someone do a quick Internet search for me, and that’s exactly where the idea for this business came from. According to a Jan. 11, 2008 press release, Boghani researched and found that people call family and friends to look up a wide range of information on the Web.

The most frequent categories were directions, store hours and locations, train times, traffic jams, weather, address confirmation, hotels, flight information, phone info from an organization’s web page, and doctor’s number from an HMO Web site.

Heck, my mom called me tonight to ask how many calories are in a potato!

I’m curious to see how librarians view this service? Do we have some competition? Or is this just another great resource? I’m also curious to know why people, my mom included, don’t call their libraries for information like this.

More Learning from Corporate America: Outback

On New Year’s Eve my husband and I decided to have a nice dinner. Since babysitters charge a minimum of $10/hour (I don’t even want to know how much it would be on New Year’s Eve) we rarely use one. Instead we put the kids to bed and decided to order take-out from the Outback. From start to finish I was amazed by how customer focused they have become.

I went online to look at the menu, then found that you can now place your order online. No looking up the phone number. No waiting for someone to answer. No trying to get the bartender to hear you over the noise. No mistakes on the order (hopefully). I submitted my order, gave a description of my car, and that was it.

10 minutes later I pulled up to a curbside take-away parking spot and someone brought me my order. I didn’t even have to get out of the car and brave the frigid 40 degree weather (see what you’re missing Helene). On the drive home I kept thinking about the library. If we really want to focus on what the customer wants then why don’t we offer a drive up service?

I can’t tell you how many times I pass by the library while I’ve got my kids in the car and wish that I could call them up and ask someone to bring my holds out to the car. I could be in and out in no time. Instead I have to hope I have the stroller. Heave the 40 lb contraption out of the back of my car. Get the baby out of her car seat while the preschooler is screaming, “Nooo ME first!” Then grab the preschooler, diaper bag, purse, library card, and don’t forget the keys. I end up hauling in about 100lbs of kids and stuff just to get a few books. While this keeps my chiropractor in business it doesn’t make me love going to the library (speaking as a customer not an employee).

I know other libraries out there have drive-thru service and others like Topeka & Shawnee County offer holds by mail but these services need to become the norm rather than the exception at libraries. If I need to go to a pharmacy you can bet it will be one that has a drive-thru. On New Year’s Eve we had over a dozen restaurants nearby that we could have gotten take-out from. The Outback was the furthest away, but it was the one we chose because of its conveinence.