Monday, October 6, 2008

Starbucks: Technology, Customer Service & Employee Relations

I had a skinny venti triple vanilla latte from Starbucks for free on Sunday. I tried the oatmeal this morning. It was pricey oatmeal, but convenient to eat in the car, and less messy than many breakfast meals.

I have cut back on my Sbux in recent months. Given the 500 point drop of the stock market today, that cutback will continue.

Starbucks is very vulnerable to the shifts in consumer spending driving the economy right now. How do they plan to overcome this?
  • Technology
  • Employee relations
  • Customer service.

According to the Wall Street Journal reports that Starbucks has begun utilizing a system for scheduling their baristas that will result in more hours for their employees, but will require fewer workers overall.

Workers at Starbucks complain that is often hard to get enough hours in a work week. The baristas, who are paid an hourly rate will get a chance to work "full time", which will reportedly be at least 32 hours a week. Starbucks has not guaranteed hours for baristas in the past.

The benefit to Starbucks beyond working to solve a long-time employee relations sore spot? More consistent manning of the counters, which enhances the customer service relationship by building more contact between customers and familiar faces behind the counter.

This contrasts with recent issues Starbucks has experienced with some baristas interested in forming a union at the company. Starbucks recently settled a charge filed with the NAtional Labor Relations Board in Minnesota.

The company recently settled a dispute in Minnesota in which the NLRB investigated the termination of a barista at their Mall of America location. The barista was re-instated by Starbucks and the company has settled those charges. In 2006, Starbucks settled a large case against it in New York involving the right to communicate about the union and terminations of union supporters.

Now similar charges have been filed in Michigan. Response from the company is pending.

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