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» How and When Should Starbucks Join the Conversation? from CustomersAreAlways
The Starbucks conversation has been a great case study for us customer service and marketing bloggers and I just realized that I havent updated The Starbucks Project post with links. However, if youll visit Valeria Maltonis post, C... [Read More]

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@Mike - marketing by context building works well with marketing conversation to me. I will do some further thinking on this, it's worth exploring.

@Carolyn Ann - I used to go to a Starbucks not far from home, too. We would meet friends there and spend time. Then they bought the new and efficient, machines and they did away with the nice tables and chairs for smaller tables and often standing room only. Forcing you to go in, buy and go out. I stopped going altogether. Good suggestions on the tip. Growing up in Italy, I never had to deal with tips - not giving them, not getting them all the years I waited tables : )

As someone who has spent a lot of time - and money - in Starbuck's, it's really odd that I've not actually been in one for quite some time!

Once upon a time, it was a daily ritual - Starbuck's, home, get to work. And I continued that even after we moved to southern NJ - and our nearest Starbuck's is 22 miles away! (Any excuse to take a motorcycle out...) But I got disenchanted with the local Starbuck's - and now I don't even bother going to one when I'm in NYC or Phillie. (Or DC.)

They all look the same. They all have the same problems, and the same merchandise. The tables are too small for my little laptop - never mind the one I use now! But when there's a bar, it's always crowded, with very few people. They spread out, taking as much of "their space" as they can. Also - not enough power outlets.

They are too noisy - all those hard surfaces reflect noise. Don't bother trying to think in a Starbuck's - you'll end up with the proverbial headache from the effort.

But mostly, I stopped going because they are boring! The decor is the same, and it's dated. It was cutting edge, oh, 10 years ago. Now, it's tired. and the sameness of each and every store - ensures a tedious experience, not a similar one in each location. If I want dull sameness, I'll go to McDonald's.

(What a surprise it was when I saw a Starbuck's in a Vegas casino. It looked absolutely drab compared to its surroundings. So drab it reduced the overall experience of the casino! I complained to the corporate office, but was given the brush-off. Oh well.)

But, back to your question re professionals. I think it's inevitable that a professional in any field is going to spot things that the other customers just don't know; or - as often as not - care about!

It is important to try and figure out not what the customer is telling you - that is just so easy - but what the customer isn't telling you! The stuff they don't articulate, the new way of doing something that no one thought of, before. (Hello, laptops! Before HP introduced the portable computer - no one had thought of it, before. And they didn't introduce the product because customers were asking for it; like I said - no one had had the idea of a portable computer!)

I now drink Starbuck's coffee - which we buy by the 55-gallon drum (it seems) at Costco (5lb bags, really)- at home. Where my laptop is connected without additional charges, and I can get a free refill that's 6 foot away, and doesn't include queueing and wondering if I was wise leaving my laptop at the counter. It's also not noisy - unless the cats are fighting.

Carolyn Ann

PS Here's one thing Starbuck's probably wouldn't think to ask - the cost of a medium coffee around here is generally $1.98. So I hand over 2 bills, and then have to reach into my pocket - again - for a quarter to tip the guy/gal behind the counter. That's caused me to not buy a coffee, if all I have is banknotes on me! It's embarrassing to not give a tip; it also indicates that Starbuck's should maybe pay their employees a bit better...

"I suspect that the magic in the company's return to greatness may be embracing local communities, differentiating by city, block, clientèle. The most valuable brand experiences happen through customer conversations."

More marketing by context building; this time block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Keep creating,
Mike

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