Coffee by Fil.Al licensed under CC BY- 2.0

Are Customers Affected By Corporate?

It’s a busy Friday morning and it’s been a long week. As you start off on your journey to work you think you’ll treat yourself for making it through yet again another brutal work week to a fancier coffee drink.

After darting across two lanes of traffic, dodging another red light by speeding through a yellow light intersection praying there isn’t a cop sitting there, you pull into your local neighborhood coffee shop. The drive thru seems packed and you’re already crunched for time but there are no open spots in the parking lot so you take the bullet and get in line for the drive thru accepting the fact you could be five minutes late for work, but hey it’s been a long week. It’s your turn at the speaker box and order your usual (of course you expect the barista to know exactly what your ‘usual” is). Now, the barista totally butchers your order when it’s repeated back to you, but after a couple times of you two going back and forth it finally sounds right.

When you get up to the window you are able to see inside all you see is what looks like chaos. A TOTAL of three baristas are running around between the espresso bar, register and order screen, food ovens, and the brew machines at the other end of the store. So many sounds going off and people talking at the same time kind of made you feel glad you were able to leave with your drink and go to your job. As you exchanged your money for your drink, you also noticed the look of stress and strain on the face of your barista who normally seems more cheerful and friendly. Not only did he/she look unhappy but they made you feel rushed. Pulling away you realized this whole experience was under two minutes and you were on your way, but you somehow also felt like you missed out on your normal friendly greetings and conversations you normally have with your baristas; it wasn’t the same experience.

Corporate coffee shops pride themselves on excellent and fast customer service. Everyone needs their caffeine in the mornings and they want to be the ones to make it for you. Coffee shops also want to provide the perfect experience and setting for every customer to enjoy their cup of coffee. But the better question is who defines quality customer service and customer experience? You, the customer, defines what quality customer service and experience is. A corporate coffee shop is centered and focused around the customer’s satisfaction. You may receive your correct beverage in a timely manner but you’ll often times find there’s a lack of certain inviting atmosphere that makes getting your cup of coffee feel more like business as usual instead of a friendly home coming at “Cheers.” Any customer “who pays $4 or more for a latte is paying for the experience and human connection, not just the drink,” (Chhoda, 2011).

In order to give customers their desired experience, coffee shops need to be staffed accordingly. Recently a major coffee chain known as Starbucks has made some staffing cut backs that have affected hour availability and employee morale drastically. So what does this all mean to the Starbucks customer? Well the new inflicted policies for baristas as well as staffing cut backs do affect you. Starbucks expects honest connections with every customer, but on a time limit. Due to the staffing cut backs it gives baristas even less time to have genuine conversations with customers, speed suffers, cleanliness suffers, and more importantly the customers suffer.

If baristas are understaffed and feel a lack of appreciation from their management and customers, your customer experience is not going to be everything you want it to be. Everything about the Starbucks “experience” is geared towards the customer’s satisfaction. When places such as Starbucks is providing you with quality “hand crafted” beverages but there is still something missing that would make your customer experience complete such as more personable interaction from your barista or potentially a cleaner facility then the demand from corporate to cut back staff and hour availability is affecting your customer experience. Customer service “…is a key factor for enhancing service quality, customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, business competitiveness in the rapidly expanding service industry,” (Ming-Hone, Chienhoa, Ren Gih, 2014). Baristas are showing the result of the cut backs through their conveyed attitude towards customers as they frantically run around trying to accomplish the work of several baristas on a limited staff in an ever growing company.

What exactly are Starbucks baristas dealing with behind the counter? As a barista, the time is measured from the time someone finishes giving their order in the drive thru line to the pick -up window where the hand off exchange takes place to the time they leave. That means we as baristas are expected to have 2 minute window times or under. This leaves little time for connection with our customers, and makes our customers like they are just another number. We’re also dealing with the time and energy it takes to make a living. On average, according to Consuming Lattes and Labor, or Working at Starbucks (Simon, 2008), baristas work twenty-four to thirty hours per week. It continues on to discuss all of the time spent by baristas getting ready for work, getting there, working making customers lattes and engaging with them and then to clean-up after them, onto cleaning the store and heading home all to show up to do all over again. Usually having a position as a barista at Starbucks is only a part time job, since they are not paid enough or able to work enough hours for it to be considered a full-time job. In addition to dealing with lack of hour availability, baristas are dealing with the effect that has in the work environment with the lack of present baristas. When you have daily cleaning tasks to complete along meeting all of the customer’s needs, you can feel stretched pretty thin. Even with all of the perks Starbucks has to offer its employees such as health care benefits and even a college education, sometimes that’s not enough when the stress and strains of achieving customer service expectations wares on you. Baristas eventually are driven away to seek out different employment options, leaving behind newly trained baristas with lack of experience to carry on the high expectations of quality customer service and experience.

So what do you think corporate has to say about all of this? They expect that the customer experience and day-today tasks shouldn’t change even with the cut backs. Our performance should not be changed due to our training and the Starbucks promise to create “coffee experts” as well as new developing ways in “running the floor” at Starbucks with “team plays.” In reality, there is no perfect barista-to-customer ratio with the perfect solution to making every customer happy, especially when we’re short staffed at our busiest time of day. Plus, the new computer based training program for newly hired baristas seriously lacks the hands-on training that is required in order to catch on quickly. The new computer training may get them on the floor faster, but they are not necessarily ready to be there nor have they had a chance to go over everything and understand it fully because they haven’t had a chance to practice.

Striving to make your coffee experience more personal and engaging rather than the normal “fast food experience” is what Starbucks is aiming for. Their mission statement is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit–one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” In reference to Ford’s journal article on Customer Expectations for Interactions with Service Providers: Relationship vs Encounter Orientation and Personalized Service Communication (2001), If you want a relationship orientation form of service which involves a more personal experience from your service provider then help baristas and other customers optimize their customer experience by contacting corporate and communicating to them what has diminished your experience as a whole.

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