General Views

Customer Experience Authenticity

Last year, Starbucks decided to encourage their staff to request the names of customers when taking orders and then announce them when the drinks were ready. This approach personalized the sale in an era where personalization is disappearing. So many retailers are now focused on speed of service and standardization of processes that they are slowly de-humanizing the customer experience. Some would argue that customers want speed of service, so standardization is required – in other words, there is no room for chit chat.

The President of Tim Horton’s recently stated that his goal was to reduce time to serve customers to be under 26 seconds. Standardization and rationalization of menu choices (too many choices slow down customer’s making up their minds when ordering) is something that will be required to meet his goal.

Is Starbucks efforts (name calling) an attempt to manufacture authenticity between the customer and the server (and the brand)? Are Starbuck’s customers in a rush and want service in less than 26 seconds. I wonder – is there a balancing act between speed of service and quality of product – are they mutually exclusive or interdependent on one another.

I remember as a child, my mother taking me to the local butcher every week, with the sawdust on the floor, and the first slice of baloney always given to me with a smile. Of course he knew my mom and us on a first name basis. It wasn’t an attempt to be authentic, it was called service back then!

I miss the experiences when local customers patronized local shops staffed by local employees and everybody was on a first-name basis. After 80 years, the butcher is still in business, run by third generation family. Yes, there are big box stores in the area, and more competitive meat prices, but I still love the friendliness, the special touches, and the first slice of cold cuts given to my children. What a small investment this butcher continues to make, for the loyalty of hundreds of customers. I drive 20 kilometres to visit him.

Is Starbucks on the right track? I think they are. I continue to be loyal to them. The thought hasn’t even crossed my mind that they are not authentic or are trying to manufacture authenticity.