Brewing up success in The Starbucks Experience

Posted by on October 20, 2011

I’ve always been a fan of Starbucks. In a way, I consider it my old stomping “grounds.” It’s where I studied in college, met new and old friends, and curled up with a great book on Sunday mornings. But up until a few weeks ago, I could never really explain that passion. That is, until I read Joseph A. Michelli’s book that coined everything I love about this shop in a three-word phrase: The Starbucks Experience.

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To create this experience, Starbucks embarked on a five-prong philosophy with baristas, managers and executives all working collaboratively. Now a Fortune 500 company, it’s clear that the strategy paid off, positioning Starbucks for fast and meaningful growth.

Driven by its philosophy, Starbucks has crafted and maintained not only the perfect cup of coffee, but the perfect ambience in which to enjoy it. Here’s how they did it:

  1. Make it your own. Staff members are encouraged and empowered to shape each Starbucks location to suit local tastes. The company identifies its staff members as “partners,” giving each person the freedom to make improvements and provide suggestions.
  2. Everything matters. Part of what makes Starbucks so successful is that they are so detail-oriented, even with the “below-deck” details. Although what the customer sees is limited to that one-time coffee purchase, Starbucks invests time and effort into all the operations leading up to that transaction, from vendor selection to employee training.
  3. Surprise and delight. Customers and employees alike love surprises, and Starbucks keeps them coming, from unadvertised giveaways to superb customer service. What struck me was a simple question asked of the customers: “How is your day going?” Sure, any employee could take your money and send you along your merry way with a “Have a nice day,” but when an employee wants to know how my day is going, I’m definitely going to come back.
  4. Embrace resistance. At some point, every business will face its own series of challenges, negative press, unhappy customers or disgruntled clients. Good businesses put criticism to good use – like Starbucks, who incorporates negative comments into training programs.
  5. Leave your mark. Social responsibility is integral to Starbucks’ success, from encouraging community service among employees to developing sustainability initiatives. [Plug: In fact, that’s one of the things I love most about working at MarketWave. Check out our latest volunteer effort here!]

You’ll have to read the whole book to glean all the great info this hardback contains, but suffice it to say that Michelli’s book takes a telling, insider’s perspective into one of the most successful brands in the world.

Now, consider how this philosophy can apply to your business. Are you selling a product/service, or are you selling an experience?

And yes, I did read much of the book at my local Starbucks, and the coffee, book and experience brewed an ironically delightful combo.


  1. Great article, I guess we can all learn a lot from Starbucks. I will have to checkout the book the next time I’m at my local Starbucks!

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