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How Starbucks Keeps Customers

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As a business manager as well as chronic Starbucks customer, I’ve been analyzing what Starbucks does that keeps us coming in. Some might say it’s because they sell an addictive product, but I would suggest that it’s the “Starbucks Experience” that’s addictive. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

The Starbucks Products

Quality –

Starbucks serves a core product of high quality surrounded by supporting products (light lunch items, pastries, breakfast items) that flesh out experience. I know I can drop by even if I need a little something to eat. While there are other good coffee places around, Starbucks is still where I want to go if I want to be sure I’m going to get a great cup of coffee.

Consistency –

I recently moved from the Kansas City area to the San Francisco Bay area. When I walked into my “new local” Starbucks, I knew exactly what I would receive when I placed my order.

Just Enough Variety –

While staying true to its core, Starbucks rolls out just enough related seasonal items to keep us interested. It’s always a great place to pick up a gift, whether it’s a gift card, a coffee mug, some Starbucks Via, or a pound of roasted beans.

The Starbucks People

When I walked into my new Starbucks, the barista helping me made a quick note of my name from my name badge, and called me by my name when thanking me for my order. I have been in businesses where this is done in a way that feels “gamey;” at Starbucks I nearly always feel that the employees are glad to see me. Hiring genuine people who have high customer service values, then training them thoroughly, is a recipe for repeat customers in any business, whether it’s healthcare or coffee.

My other people-related measure is whether people who work there like working there. I frequently ask people (not just at Starbucks) how they like their work, the company, etc. Starbucks employees generally give their company generally positive feedback.

Starbucks Convenience

Even with the well needed closure of a number of stores in the last few years, I never have to travel too far to find a Starbucks. As a result, it is never too much hassle for me to go there to get something, so I never end up stopping at a competitor.

Starbucks Rewards

Starbucks has a “My Starbucks Rewards” program that provides incentives for returning customers. They use Facebook and mobile apps as ways of enhancing this experience and making it more user-accessible.

I do think this program could be more prominently featured. I received a Starbucks gift card for Christmas, and almost accidentally discovered that I could register the card, reload it online, etc. A gentle reminder when the card is used for the first time might increase the profile of the Rewards program.

I would also suggest that Starbucks take a look at what Panera Bread is doing with their “My Panera” program. Rather than just having standard rewards at various levels, I receive pretty regular little surprises from Panera in my email box (a free pastry and free coffee so far). This might be a useful addition for Starbucks to consider. Intermittent reinforcement is a powerful thing.

The Starbucks Intangibles

We like to go back to places that make us feel good, not only about them, but about ourselves. Starbucks accomplishes this in large part by their long-term emphasis on the environment specifically, but social responsibility in general. This includes using fair trade practices, being a leader in recycling, and being involved with their local communities. Starbucks and social responsibility actually sounds like a pretty good article idea that would stand on its own.

The Starbucks Brand

Starbucks keeps customers by being a “Brand,” in the best sense of the word. I know who they are, what they stand for, and what they do. They have a strong social networking presence (#1 on Facebook), and I think they are just beginning to find ways to use that to enhance customer loyalty and experience. I believe they will successfully grow even more as those efforts being to bear fruit.

Lastly, another reason why starbucks keeps their customers is because they use tools and software that can help them in managing their customers. They are using CRM software to better provide quality service to their clients. So if you are a business owner, you should find and compare CRM software for your business.

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