I’ve been complaining about the long lines and bad consumer experience at Starbucks for a while and the leaked memo by founder Howard Schultz proves that the problems go to heart and soul of this once-wonderful company. Operational efficiency is very important to corporations but not at the expense of innovation or experience.
Schultz warned of the dangers of “the commoditization the Startucks experience” and he was right on. With 13,500 stores worldwide, Starbucks has been on a kick to make them more efficient and productive to squeeze out more profits. Coffee is vacuum-packed to make it easier to ship, but the wonderful aroma of the stores is gone. Expresso machines are automated to speed up the delivery of shots but the great performance of the baristas—so much a part of the fun of the experience—is going, going, gone.
Again and again, we see companies opting for operational efficiency to the neglect of innovation and experience. We wrote about Symbol Technologies in the last issue of Inside Innovation—how it lost its mojo to efficiency and how it got it back. The same tale, sometimes sadder, can be found through the business landscape.
So Schultz is launching a new campaign to get Starbucks’ mojo back. Expect new kinds of drinks, a push for things Latin American, and a revamp of stores to make them less sterile and more comfy.
Points go to Schultz for realizing that Starbucks has an efficiency problem and needed to get back to providing great experiences for its consumers. If he doesn’t succeed, there’s always Peets, right?
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