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Starbucks, You Could Be Doing Social Better

I pull the social media card sparingly when I have to. Personally, as a business owner, I often cringe when I see a customer publicly flog a company online. Especially when it’s a policy and typically not the poor customer service representative’s fault. CSR’s don’t often make the rules, it’s typically someone higher up and a little out of reach that handles those things.

In this case, though, I have to share this incident publicly because it points to issues that many companies struggle with when it comes to social media. As well, it’s not just any company… it’s a strong brand with profit margins twice the average business. That means they can afford to listen, and afford to correct this issue to improve their social media standing across their customer base.

The Incident

This weekend, I made the trek back Florida to Indiana. It’s a trip that I take each quarter and I enjoy the quiet drive, the scenery, and the time to think about things. I’m a coffee fanatic (Starbucks may be startled if they see our annual budget for our small company on our Starbuck’s card) and often schedule my stops in line with where there’s a Starbucks on an upcoming exit.

In McDonough, GA, I exited I-75 and drove a few miles to a Starbucks. When I entered the store, I went into the men’s room and was in shock. The trash was overflowing and the floor was covered. I’m not going to describe the scent, just that it was obvious that it was long overdue. It’s not that I don’t expect a bathroom nearby a busy highway to be spotless… but this wasn’t a gas station, it was my beloved Starbucks.

I stood in line and watched one barista handle the drive through, and another run around crazy keeping up with the line. I counted 5 additional employees literally standing around doing nothing. After receiving my drink, I went to a table and it looked like it hadn’t been wiped in hours. There was straw wrappers and napkins littering the floor between spill marks. I groaned and went outside where I took this photo and shared it on Twitter.

I didn’t get a response, but another follower chimed in and asked where the Starbucks was located… so I answered him and included Starbucks.

My original Tweet was at 2:11 PM. Starbucks finally responded at 4:09PM:

Ugh. I never responded.

The Correction

Perhaps with the holiday season, Starbucks social media folks were too busy to pay attention to my tweet. It’s just one tweet, right? Well, sort of. Out of all the people that visited that filthy store that day, was I the only one that notified them of an issue?

How many non-Buckees walked in and walked out with this store as their first impression? How many of my followers have lost a little faith in the brand they loved. How many of both now look for another coffee shop on the road instead of Starbucks because the consistency of their beautiful stores has now been disrupted? I know I won’t be going to that particular store any time soon.

Here’s what I would have loved seeing in a Tweet from Starbucks:

We’re concerned, called the store manager. DM me so we can make it up to you. Jason

It wouldn’t have been difficult to find the store, you can use the Starbucks app or their store locator:

Starbucks

The Solution

For Starbucks and any other company that is monitoring social media, here are the lessons learned:

  1. Response Time – As I was sitting in Starbucks, it would have been great to have gotten a response. Two hours later showed me they really don’t care.
  2. Empowerment – Did your social media person really ask me to email someone? Why weren’t you empowered to contact the store manager yourself?
  3. Alleviate – It’s not always possible for companies to make up for a mistake, but they can alleviate the issue by showing some appreciation. Providing me a credit on my Starbucks card would have been fine.
  4. Personalize – We all hate nameless brands. It would have been engaging and personal to sign off with your name (I just guessed a name).

I’m still a Starbucks fan and hope they listen to this feedback and improve their social monitoring process.

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About Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of The Marketing Technology Blog. Doug is the CMO of CircuPress and CEO of DK New Media, an agency specializing in assisting marketing technology companies with their inbound marketing - leveraging social media, blogging, search engine optimization, pay per click and public relations. Their clients include Angie's List, GoDaddy, Mindjet and many more. Douglas is also the author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies.

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