Posts Tagged 'customer service'

Can Starbucks Recover?

It is indeed ironic that Starbucks finds itself the target of complaints about racism, insensitivity and customer service. For much of its history, Starbucks has been a standard-bearer of progressive corporate leadership on a variety of social, cultural, racial, customer service and corporate social responsibility issues—which only goes to point out that no company can afford to overlook the quality of its ongoing relationships with its customers and, in addition, the power of social media to generate a communications crisis within minutes.

First, let us admit that we’ve previously lauded Starbucks on several occasions for forward-thinking, courageous, and even bold stands on a variety of quality-of-life and social justice issues. From the much-despised Race Together initiative to progressive stands on employee relations, equity in leadership and pay, and establishing and setting a high bar on a range of everyday communications issues (digital and social media marketing), we like Starbucks and think they’ve set an example worthy of many corporations taking note. Nonetheless, we’ve also recently become disenchanted with some changes ushered in by Starbucks, which begin to raise the question we asked in some of our earlier social media posts re: Philadelphia, and even before: Has success spoiled Starbucks and caused it to take too much for granted, when it comes to its customers? And will one day of racial sensitivity and customer service training (designated corporate-wide for May 29) change that scenario? Bottom line, apparently had Starbucks started to believe—like too many banks and investment firms before it—that it’s too big to fail, or even immune to a stumble. The past few weeks should’ve changed that picture substantially.

So where has Starbucks gone wrong? Like many entrepreneurs, we consider ourselves aficionados on this, as we spend a lot of time in Starbucks or running to Starbucks while conducting business. Here are a few problems we’ve noted of late. …

Disappearing Chairs

As we’ve noted in one of our social posts, in the past months, chairs have been noticeably missing from Starbucks changing business model. One of the things that has made Starbucks not only convenient, but indispensable in our informal, shared-workspace economy, is that Starbucks is, generally, an inviting place to conduct business. It’s convenient (practically omnipresent), more invigorating than the average office, and a good place to mix informal mingling with business function. I’ve seen everything from small-group meetings, to tele-conferencing, to actual business social activities held in Starbucks sites.

Losing A Neighborhood Gathering Place

As one journalist recently described it: “Starbucks, a brand that has positioned itself in our national consciousness as not just a restaurant chain or retail operation, but as a ‘third place’ meetup spot for the community.” So, this sudden removal of seats from a growing number of stores (across the Chicago area at least), is something of a slap in the face to loyal customers—business and social users alike–who Starbucks encourages to make repeat visits.

So, perhaps the issue facing Starbucks in the Philadelphia case is about more than race, although its apparent that ugly racism may have strongly influenced the situation. Could it be that Starbucks was already losing touch with the people and the community values that made it a global juggernaut?

Perhaps it was too much to ask that a major corporation combine all the amenities of the local neighborhood café, bookstore, community center and local hotspot. But Starbucks offered an implicit promise to be all that, giving it a special local appeal. And it was diverse, in staff and clientele. But those mom and pop coffee shops and cafes that many of us abandoned for Starbucks are probably now muttering a major “I told you so!”

Can Starbucks pull it all together quickly to stay of damage caused by that shop in Philadelphia and other bad moves. Time will tell. The company has at least announced it’s closing the shop for one day in May to talk about race, and we hope many other customer service issues. Many of us will wait and see, before we make our way to a final exit.

More Organizational Storytelling and PR from Ford Motor Company

PRDoctorChicago is all about Communications experiences, insights
and lessons learned from pros.

A few months ago, we wrote about organizational storytelling and kicked off the post with an incredibly forward-thinking quote by Henry Ford on communications and business. Ford Motor Company’s approach to communications and its outreach to customers has been making news again.

The article below by Ashley Zeckman on TopRank Online Marketing Blog serves as a timely update, offering myriad lessons to communicators on such tough topics as marketing, branding, consumer engagement, marketing mix, social media content, etc. Check it out for some “deep” lessons learned …

  Scott Monty on How Ford Empowers Customer Storytelling                        & Lessons Learned

“As marketers we all know that storytelling is an essential part of connecting with prospects and customers. Scott Monty (@scottmonty) and his team at Ford have taken the art of storytelling a step further.

In his moving (yes I said moving) keynote, Scott walked the audience through some of Ford’s most recent and innovative campaigns. In many of these campaigns the story is told not from the perspective of Ford, but from that of the consumer. Below you’ll find more about the stories of these campaigns, the people who told them, and the lessons learned.”

Continue reading …

Aligning Customer Experience with PR & Marketing

It should go without saying that customer experience should be aligned with public relations and marketing objectives. Yet, it appears it doesn’t go without saying, or at the very least, it bears repeating often: Your customer service and customer experience should be aligned with your PR & marketing. If it isn’t, you’re not going to be able to fully leverage the dollars and time invested in the latter, and the expenditure will pretty much go for naught.

In our communications work, we’ve frequently seen that an overlooked aspect of public relations is direct customer service: What is the disposition of and training provided to front-line, customer-facing staff? If not addressed appropriately, this can become a significant public relations issue.

We shared in a recent conversation with colleagues, and here’s a list of customer service problems (potential PR problems) we experienced during just the past week. (If any of the following scenarios ring too familiar, it’s probably time to direct some time and energy to internal communication rather than external communication.)

Common Customer Service Problems

1) Faux or ingratiating politeness, as a cover for poor or unethical business practices.

-We encountered this at a national chain retail tire shop, where the agent engaged in lengthy and friendly chat to blatantly upsell* a client. This went on for some 20 minutes, as incoming customers did a slow burn. When it came our turn, the estimate for replacing a flat tire ballooned to $1,200 in recommended service charges and fees.

2) Employee Attitude #1: “We know you’re waiting in line, but we have 8 hours to fill”:

This occurred at a neighborhood bank, where customers stood in a growing line awaiting the next of only two available tellers. The two employees, meantime, chatted breezily with each other and with their “favorite” customers, pretty much unconcerned about less-favored customers still waiting on line.

3) Employee Attitude #2: “I don’t care, I only work here”– a total lack of concern or engagement with customers or their needs:

-As we talked about this, we had all experienced this more times than we care to remember: The wait staff who can’t answer basic questions about items on the menu and who, worse yet, seems to be annoyed by any question; the check-out clerk or hostess who appears oblivious to any perceived order among the line of people waiting for attention; one staff even experienced asking an employee the address of a business they were standing in (while trying to navigate herself to her appointed destination), only to be told, unbelievably, that the employee didn’t know.

4) Blatant lying to customers, about stock, delivery, service promises, return policies, etc.:

-Need we say more?

Where Do We Go From Here?

No doubt you’ve experienced at least one of the situations we’ve described. While we’re all for politeness—every customer in every business should expect nothing less. From a PR standpoint, we also know that nothing is more grating or counterproductive than feigned politeness or engagement lacking authenticity. Quite the contrary, either, in the face of deceptive, shoddy, unethical or simply poor service, is only likely to cause greater aggravation.

Yes, we know positive engagement is a two-way street; that, often, dealing with the public can be challenging, and sometimes seemingly thankless. Yet too often within organizations front-facing staff issues are not given the same attention as the latest marketing or PR campaign. But when the above, or other examples of bad customer service, become the signature of a business or an organization, virtually no amount of mass media outreach will undo the damage left by bad experiences. As we all know, the people who greet customers at the door, answer phones, ring up customer purchases. staff the reception or service desk, take customer orders or stock the store shelves are a company’s first line of PR offense. Let’s make sure they know it!

*Sell goods or services beyond what’s actually needed; in this case, car repairs

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