business news in context, analysis with attitude

Reuters reports on a poll by Coworker.org, an online petition site, suggesting that a Starbucks initiative "designed to improve speed and customer service has not fixed staffing shortages ... Eighty-nine percent of respondents said staffing levels were still a problem in their stores in the past three months, and 62 percent said their ability to deliver the best customer service possible decreased during that time." The story notes that the new poll comes " a year after U.S. Starbucks workers used the site to protest staffing cutbacks that they warned were slowing service and hurting morale at the popular coffee chain."

The Reuters story notes that Starbucks has said it is trying to respond to criticisms that the combination of staff cutbacks and busy stores, as well as bottlenecks created by the company's successful mobile ordering app, was creating service issues. And a spokesperson tells Reuters that the company has added staff to about 15 percent of its stores, and that "all of our metrics show we are moving in the opposite direction of what the survey claims."
KC's View:
The first thing I'd suggest to Starbucks is that it would be a real mistake to simply dismiss the survey results. Sometimes employees will tell their bosses what they think they want to hear, and will use outside mechanisms to send a message that needs to be heard.

I'd also suggest that while metrics are important, they aren't everything. They can even be misleading. Metrics can measure efficiency, but they don't always measure effectiveness. And customer service is the lynchpin of Starbucks' business model.

When I read this story, I started to think about recent visits to Starbucks ... and it seems to me (and this is completely anecdotal) that there have been an awful lot of times when things were slow because there were only one or two people working the counter at a time when an extra pair of hands or two would've been really useful. Maybe the survey is onto something.

One other thought. I noticed that in all the stories about this survey, the reporters quite rightly pointed out that Starbucks has a new CEO - Kevin Johnson, who succeeded Howard Schultz in April. Now, these problems predate Johnson';s ascension to the top job, and Schultz remains chairman. But - and I don't want to get ahead of myself here - I cannot help but think that we may be seeing the very first planting of the seeds that will return Schultz - someone who I've always thought has something of a Messiah complex, even if one could argue that it is well-earned - to the CEO's office.

I certainly wouldn't bet against it.