Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It Works For Starbucks

I'm in the middle of reading "The Starbucks Experience" by Joseph A. Michelli...not because I frequent Starbucks...I don't drink coffee, but I wanted to find out about their corporate culture. I decided to do some research into what their employees are trained on. I was NOT at all surprised because I figured that they had to have something that enticted people to spend far more for a coffee than another place.

Here's some of what I found:

Every partner/barista hired for a retail job in a Starbucks store received at least 24 hours training in the first two to four weeks. The training included classes on coffee history, drink preparation, coffee knowledge (four hours), customer service (four hours), and retail skills, plus a four-hour workshop called "Brewing the Perfect Cup."

Baristas were trained in using the cash register, weighing beans, opening the bag properly, capturing the beans without spilling them on the floor, holding the bag in a way that keeps air from being trapped inside, and affixing labels on the package exactly one-half inch over the Starbucks logo. Beverage preparation occupied even more training time, involving such activities as grinding the beans, steaming milk, learning to pull perfect (18- to 23-second) shots of espresso, memorizing the recipes of all the different drinks, practicing making the different drinks, and learning how to make drinks to customer specifications.

There were sessions on how to clean the milk wand on the espresso machine, explain the Italian drink names to customers, sell an $875 home espresso machine, make eye contact with customers, and take personal responsibility for the cleanliness of the coffee bins. Everyone was drilled in the Star Skills, three guidelines for on-the-job interpersonal relations: (1) maintain and enhance self-esteem, (2) listen and acknowledge, and (3) ask for help. And there were rules to be memorized: milk must be steamed to at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit but never more than 170 degrees; every espresso shot not pulled within 23 seconds must be tossed; customers who order one pound of beans must be given exactly that—not .995 pounds or 1.1 pounds; never let coffee sit in the pot more than 20 minutes; always compensate dissatisfied customers with a Starbucks coupon that entitles them to a free drink.


All of that training...and that's just where it starts...for a $4.00 or $5.00 cup of coffee. Imagine what the timeshare industry would be able to do with that kind of training. I would imagine for one that the term "ups" would vanish...and that the term "vacation counselor" would actually apply.

Consumers want personalized service. Consumers want to go on vacation. Consumers need trust in order to purchase. What does Starbucks know that the timeshare industry doesn't, or doesn't want to learn?

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