In workshops based on his book, The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, Dr Joseph Michelli explains key steps that allowed the company to build its profile, create new markets and, for quite a while, maintain a stupendous rate of growth.
Naturally, these principles cover a broad spectrum. They include striking a balance between tough operational and service standards and encouraging staff to be themselves. There's the need for constant attention to small improvements, while not forgetting the big picture. And, unpleasant but essential, there's the importance of taking a long, hard look at a business when things aren't going right and being ready to admit mistakes.
Starbucks did that when it became clear to management that certain strategies weren't working, and Michelli believes its approach to tackling the problems offers a lesson for other organisations. 'The growth engine became all about investment and return on investment, which did compromise the essence of the brand,' he says. 'It diluted the coffee house experience, so they did have to go back and hear the voice of the customer more in every business decision, particularly in a declining economy.'
He sees it as a real positive that, rather than just searching for new efficiencies, the company was prepared to review and reverse previous decisions, and accepted the need to get back to basics. That meant focusing more on customer needs and giving them the degree of 'theatre' and the sensory experiences - smell, taste and ambience - that they expected.
'They did what was necessary to get the service and quality right,' Michelli says. 'There is now a website for customers to give ideas, and the company has a good understanding of how to leverage social media. This is helping them to build a strong customer base.'