March 21, 2008
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you likely heard that Starbucks temporarily shut down all their corporate stores for an afternoon in late February for a company-wide training initiative. The move is part of returning CEO Howard Schultz’s strategy to reignite the flagging coffee giant by energizing store-level employees and refocusing on the “customer experience” in store.!@!
Schultz, one of the company’s founders, returned as CEO in January 2008 and hopes to deliver a jolt to sales amidst increasing competition and a softening economy. The Seattle-based company is also scaling back growth plans in the U.S., closing poorly performing stores, rolling out limited free wireless Internet and investing in new high-tech espresso machines that they hope will deliver more consistency in their signature drinks.
But if the true measure of the effectiveness of learning is its ultimate impact on the bottom line, then the Starbucks training initiative may have misfired. According to a recent story from Advertising Age, the company did a wonderful job of getting out the word on the store closure. Newspapers, TV networks and Web sites leapt on the story. But, at least according to one study, the bottom-line message to customers may have been lost in translation.
According to the Ad Age story, research group Synovate surveyed 1,000 customers and found that 75 percent knew about the closing. But less than 50 percent knew why they closed. In other words, the training message got to Starbucks employees, but failed to reach a large portion of their customer base.
So was the training a hit or was it a miss? It all depends on how you define success.