How are your beans ground?

A couple of months ago (yeah, I know, Im behind), there was a mass of hand-wringing in the press about a corporate memo Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wrote, saying he is worried about the experience that people have at Starbucks these days.

He should be. Fortunately for them, he figured it out. He mentioned the loss of the “Starbucks experience” by no longer grinding beans in front of the customer (using recently roasted ground coffee instead), having baristas who can no longer remember their client’s typical order and having automated machines brew the espresso.

The Wall Streer Journal jumped on the memo, as did Starbucks’ critics. Read on, then we’ll go a little further:

http://tinyurl.com/34b6n (Wall Street Journal online – really long URL)

One quote:

The criticisms pinpoint Starbucks’ biggest challenge. Mr. Schultz, the company’s resident visionary, wants Starbucks to become one of the world’s most recognized brands, with 40,000 locations around the globe, or more than triple its current count of about 13,000. But to do that, Starbucks must improve its efficiencies and make other changes that threaten to erode the virtues that made it so successful — which in turn could jeopardize its ability to charge premium prices.

Above, the WSJ says SB “must improve its efficiencies”.

Yeah, sure they do. But what in the heck does that have to do with using pre-ground beans? Or using automated espresso machines? The efficiencies that are needed to increase their size have NOTHING to do with internal store operations relating to the making of an individual cup of coffee while providing the “theatre” Howard refers to. They relate to corporate efficiency. Corporate office improvements, purchasing and shipping improvements, hiring changes and similar.

But not the java, mon.

The beancounter who put the automated machines in and started having pre-ground beans clearly doesn’t understand how these shops work, or why people frequent them and has no business making decisions that affect the customer experience at SB – or any other business. Otherwise, he or she may be a fine accountant.

Trading Juan Valdez and his burro for a suit in a helicopter or a $45k pickup doesn’t make the coffee or the experience better.

And you…. how are your beans ground?

Have you replaced the expert home salespeople who do model tours on the golf cart? That cute little college coed who knows nothing about your homes ISN’T helping the experience, isn’t getting the prospects any closer to a sale, can’t answer detailed questions about the home and if you are lucky, isn’t making the situation worse, even if she is awfully cute and bubbly.

Do the people at the counter in your auto repair bays still know the dirt on your cars? They should.

Are you serving the equivalent of “pre-ground coffee” in your industry?