I read this book and enjoyed it immensely. I appreciated the in depth look into the culture that has made Starbucks unique.
Michelli attempts to communicate the necessity and method of creating an experience for consumers by examining the methods used to create the Starbucks experience. Michelli uses Starbucks as a positive example of what a business can do if they put forth a consistent effort at creating a customer experience. He divides the book into chapters based upon the five guiding principles of Starbucks.
In this work, Michelli argues that every business must encourage employees to own the business. Like a runner with ankle weights during a marathon, so is a business that does not encourage its employees to own the business. Companies have been slowly trending from an authoritarian structure to an approach that respects employees and encourages improvement. Currently Starbucks leads in this change and has demonstrated that this shift will improve a company financially as well as socially. (Another company with an even more aggressive employee focused approach is Panda Express.)
Further a company must recognize that everything is important. One cannot let little things go because each piece builds the complete picture. In isolation, the problem might appear too small to bother with, but each minutia works together to complete a whole picture. Every jigsaw puzzle has many pieces that appear too small to matter much, but without those pieces the puzzle will never display the complete picture to the viewer. Satisfaction will be lessened exponentially with each piece missing or marred in the picture.
Michelli notes that people enjoy receiving a pleasant surprise. Starbucks has attempted to codify this into the lifestyle of their employees. Whenever possible a Starbucks partners take opportunities to improve the life of the customers through simple surprises. These could be simply remembering names and favorite drink orders. This small effort showing that the customer matters delights and unfortunately surprises most people. Forgetting to surprise a customer could easily result in boredom. Boredom dulls the edge of the experience. Boredom defocuses the image in like manner that fog fuzzes the windshield on a cold morning. That lack of focus and clarity confuses the customer’s perception of the company.
Resistance can squelch or inhibit growth, yet it could spark improvements, innovation and growth. The choice belongs to the company. A company that fails to listen and act upon criticism will find their customers distancing themselves and moving onward. A company cannot market effectively if they do not know what the customer thinks and desires. This is cheap marketing research.
Finally companies make an impact on the environment around them. A company could focus on profits alone (for the benefit of the executives), or a company could focus on developing their employees and the environment around them.
One glaring fault leapt from the pages of this book, namely that Michelli present Starbucks as the perfect organization without faults. On the last two pages, he acknowledges their faults, but throughout the book he never addresses how Starbucks learned from failures. There is never an explanation of how Starbucks developed its ideals nor what the inevitable the missteps cost them nor how they recovered. A positive image is good, but if it does not reveals some flaws (humanness), it has limited usefulness
Further, Michelli fails to address how to map a fast food industry with low cost of goods (coffee is relatively inexpensive) to other industries. Most companies cannot afford to give away replacements for broken items (i.e. spilled drinks). While Starbucks intelligently chose to make free replacement drinks a standard practice, how does that translate to companies that do not have a low cost product?
What are your opinion of Starbucks? The other day, I stopped in for a simple coffee. They told me that they were just making a fresh pot and that if I would be willing to wait, they would give me a free cup just for waiting. This is consistent with Michelli’s view of the company and demonstrates their ideals. Unfortunately, Michelli never suggests how a company without a low cost high margin product can do the same.