Seven years ago, when I taught in Beijing several students come to me with an unusual invitation: “Teacher, we would like to take you to Starbucks it is opening the first store in Beijing now.” At that time, Starbucks is new in China so having a coffee there is a special occasion. Today almost every town in China that I visit, there are several Starbuck stores even China is a tea drinking country. Coffee shops are popular all over the world and there are thousand coffee shops in every country but why Starbucks is so successful?
My friends in France said Starbucks coffee does not taste good as French coffee. When Starbucks opened their first store in Paris, the French considered it an insult to their culture and predicted no one would even go there and soon it will close. When I came to France few years ago, I saw Starbucks coffee shops everywhere with many people standing in line to buy coffee. My friend said: “Their coffee is still not good.” But why the French is still going to Starbuck?
Some people say Starbucks stores provide Wi-Fi where customers can bring laptop to surf the Internet while drinking coffee without paying anything extra. But is it the Wi-Fi that keeps people coming to Starbucks? There are many coffee shops providing Wi-Fi service too and competition is high but how Starbucks manages to stay on top? Of course, the company advertises that their coffee is consistent and tastes the same no matter where you are in the world. The Starbucks Company guarantees the same quality and consistency in every store, from Starbucks New York, Starbucks Paris to Starbucks Beijing, or Starbucks Tokyo, the taste is the same as they are using the same coffee, and the same machines. Many fast food stores like McDonald, KFC, and Pizza Hut etc. also have the same level of consistency all over the world. But is it consistency make Starbuck a preferred destination?
From my view, Starbucks has one thing that makes it so successful: Customer service. People who work at Starbucks are well trained and very friendly which is unusual in this fast pace and often busy world. If you go to any Starbucks on a regular basis, you will enjoy additional benefits such as not having to order because they remember you. As soon as I walk in the Starbuck store near Carnegie Mellon, they know what I want as they greet me with a smile and ask: “Mr. Vu, the same thing?” Last summer I spent a month teaching in Beijing and the people at Starbucks store there also remember me and said the same thing. I had the same experience when I taught in S. Korea and Japan. That is the “Personal side” of this large company that keeps customers coming back. They understand customer satisfaction. Now I understand why they are successful. It is NOT their coffee, it is NOT their WIFI, It is NOT their price, but it is their customer service. They know how to treat customers like friends that make them keep coming back.
For businesses of any type to succeed, you must learn from Starbucks: Having good customer service. I wonder if software companies understand this simple lesson.