The Starbucks Theorem
The Seattle brand focuses as much on the quality of the human relationship as it does on the excellence of the coffee it serves.
Forbes recently asked an intriguing question on its website: Do Starbucks employees have more emotional intelligence than your physician?
The article tells how baristas are trained to recognize and appropriately respond to customer needs. They are also taught what Starbucks calls the “method latte” in order to manage difficult situations. This involves listening to the client, acknowledging their complaint, solving their problem, thanking them, and explaining why the problem occurred in the first place.
More generally, Starbucks employees learn how to recognize the emotions of their customers and interact positively with their negative feelings. As Forbes points out, this emotional training contrasts with the lack of lessons on empathy in medical school.
The importance of emotions in the daily activity of Starbucks employees is anything but a coincidence. It stems from the vision of Howard Schultz, the Company’s founder and CEO. He designed cafes as a “third place” between home and work where people would develop local communities. This is why, in his view, Starbucks has always sold more than coffee. The brand’s key value proposition is the emotional connection fostered between employees and customers.
I therefore propose to create what I call the Starbucks theorem: Without any emotion, the coffee is rotten.