Customer Reviews: The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary
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VINE VOICEon January 3, 2007
Starbucks has many detractors -- people who object to its business model, the way it prepares its beans, or simply its ubiquity. And though they don't seem to have shown up in the reviews here yet, I'm sure there are readers who may object to this book because it offers a relentlessly positive look at the coffee giant. It's important to understand that "The Starbucks Experience" is not, and is not meant to be, an "exposé" of Big Coffee. People seeking that should look elsewhere.

(I probably should mention here that although I live in Seattle, I don't work for Starbucks. I am, however, a fan of theirs.)

What "The Starbucks Experience" is, is a very interesting inside look at the approach to business that has made Starbucks not only a commercial, but also a cultural, phenomenon. As William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre explained in their recent and important book "Mavericks at Work," Starbucks is an exemplar of the values-driven business model that will set apart the next generation of business leaders. Joseph Michelli has taken us deeper inside that business model and pointed out some important ways that all of us, whatever our job or station in life, can adopt and adapt "the Starbucks experience" for our own uses.

I call this a "half-caf" business book because unlike many other writers in this genre, Michelli doesn't pound away at "life applications" or "key learnings" (awful phrase). Much of the book, in fact, is pretty straightforward storytelling with some "Ideas to Sip On" at the end of each chapter. It's up to the reader to decide how much of this is relevant and useful, and what the important lessons may be.

I think the attentive reader will come away with many worthwhile ideas. We're not all in a position to shape corporate policy, but one of the powerful truths Starbucks teaches is that everyone can have a big -- even a defining -- impact on a customer's experience of your product or service. You don't have to be a Starbucks fan to get a mental caffeine-buzz off an idea like that.
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on June 12, 2015
As a small business owner, I've often looked up to Starbucks as a shining example of what can be achieved in the hospitality and retail business. So I picked up this book to hopefully learn about how Starbucks conducts business, so that I can use those lessons in my own business. However, I didn't find this book to be much help at all. The lessons are far too abstract to have meaning in the day to day operation and planning of a business. Principles like "Make your Mark" and "Surprise and Delight" are great general principles to aspire to, but they are presented in a format that reads like a Starbucks training manual. The book is at its best when its provides specifics, like when it states that Starbucks has a program that pays non-profits $10 an hour for every hour a partner volunteers there. But many of the examples are almost comical in the way its paints Starbucks as a saintly company. Nice to know that a partner who won the lottery shared it with her co-workers, but what does that tell me about HOW Starbucks created a culture of sharing; could this partner just be a really good person, while another partner might have kept the whole jackpot to himself.
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VINE VOICEon October 19, 2006
The Pike Fish Market in Seattle is an entertaining place. According to the motivational video "Fish!", there are lessons to be learned from how they operate their business.

A long time ago, far, far away, the Pike Fish Market was the neighbor to... Starbucks, the early version.

I can envision the energy in the Pike Fish Market influencing the Starbuck philosophy. I don't know if that really happened, but Starbucks IS the coffee equivalent of that fish throwing, shouting, and entertaining place.

Or, according to Joseph Michelli, it should be.

There are almost as many "Principles for Success" books written by the Fortune 500 as there are Fortune 500 (guess a number here). Why is this one anything special?

I'd say this book reads not as a pat on their own back, and not as a book written for MBA students. There is a level of energy, the Pike Fish Market-type energy, throughout. The principles are:

* Make it Your Own
* Everything Matters
* Surprise and Delight
* Embrace Resistance
* Leave Your Mark

These translate into customer friendly, employee empowering, creativity rewarding, and relationship forming principles. The energy comes top-down AND bottom-up.

This book is worthy of a second reading after the first. Let the concepts sink in, and see how they apply to the world. Then read again. Pick and choose what may work for you. Do you "see" REI? Costco? Powell's Books?

This well-written book is worthy of a look-see.
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Management consultant Joseph Michelli spent two years of his life trying to figure out what makes Starbucks such a successful operation. Remember, Howard Shultz the founder of Starbucks took essentially an ordinary cup of coffee. Prior to him, it was sold daily in some of the seediest places on the planet (still is). He elevated it into an art form, presented in a European style environment, and sold it repetitively day in and day out for 4 to 7 times what you pay somewhere else for it.


It's one of those stories where you say to yourself, this was a NATURAL. Why didn't someone think about doing this? Home Depot, McDonald's, Duncan Donuts, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, all of these operations were naturals, so natural in fact that you would think that someone else would have thought of doing it first.

Starbucks is in a class by itself

Had you invested $10,000 in the Starbucks IPO in 1992, you would be sitting on $650,000 today. If you had been one of the 100 employees with the company in 1987, and had you stayed with them, you would be looking at 100,000 fellow employees today. Who else has had growth like this?

How do you replicate the customer experience every day successfully among 11,000 stores? How do you do it in such a way, that if a customer travels from NYC to Miami, to Detroit, and then on to Chicago, and LA, and into San Diego, you can count on CONSISTENCY in each Starbucks that you would enter?

This is such an extraordinarily difficult thing to do, that you will immediately realize how many other great companies including Home Depot along the way, have STUMBLED, when it came to maintaining that unique CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. This wonderful little book answers all of these questions and more, in less than 200 delightful pages to read. There's more wisdom here than you realize upon first reading Michelli's

work. Here's more of what you will learn. There are five critical sections to the book. The author has named them Principles 1 through 5. Each is a separate chapter in the book. They are:


The people who work in the stores, who do the everyday work you see are called PARTNERS, not workers, not employees. The objective is to get a lower level associate functioning in an entrepreneurial fashion. Somehow Starbucks gets it done. Basically, each partner is asked to conduct himself in accordance with what the company calls the "FIVE WAYS OF BEING".

A) Be Welcoming

B) Be Genuine

C) Be Considerate

D) Be Knowledgeable

E) Be Involved


There are two fabulous quotes that are used in this section. We should all memorize them:

A) Retail is Detail

B) All Business is Detail

I was floored by these quotes. When you think about it, Starbucks is completely right. You have to get those DETAILS right. If you do that, the mosaic that you are trying to create between store, coffee and customer - it all comes together.


It might be opening a store an hour early because you see a customer standing outside. Perhaps you had 10 regular customers from the library across the street, and now the library has moved. You run the Starbucks, so what do you do, you visit the new Starbucks where the library moved, and you introduce your old customers to the new Starbucks. Who does this type of thing; what business has such people affiliated with it? The answer is Starbucks. Somehow this company has managed to create these types of dedicated professionals.


Most companies seem to fight off criticism or complaints - not Starbucks. They look upon criticism as an opportunity to learn from the person doing the criticizing. A case in point is a high level Starbucks executive calling up a person who did a radio show flailing against what he viewed as a lack of consistency in the coffee and service at his local Starbucks. The company embraced the criticism as an opportunity to learn on a company-wide basis. This is very unusual to say the least.


It's right in the company's mission statement. The company will "contribute positively to our communities, and our environment." From buying environmentally friendly products to constantly worrying about developing a reputation for integrity, Starbucks takes what it does seriously. This is reflected in every nuance of the customer experience.

Is this the only major company in America that gives health-care benefits to all employees who work 20 hours a week or more? I think so. Most companies could care less about the living and working conditions of the overseas companies that it buys from. Starbucks couldn't care MORE.

In fact, they pay an average of $1.26 more per pound of coffee than their competitors, to insure that their foreign business partners treat their employees better that what is normal country practice. This includes looking at the books of their providers to insure that the wealth trickles down all the way to the guy picking the coffee beans.


If you are a student of management than this is a company you need to study. If you are an investor, you have to think about why you are investing in arcane, esoteric companies you don't understand, when companies like Starbucks are right under your nose, and you visit them every day. What's going on here? Who's driving the bus?

Read "The Starbucks Experience". It will give a whole new meaning to your leisure time activities. You will learn that this company is a whole lot more than just a cup of fresh, wholesome, good tasting coffee. See you at Starbucks.

Richard Stoyeck
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on August 18, 2010
I have learned a lot about the "wonderful" Starbucks customer service from this book, but I have to agree with the other negative reviews on this book. This book really is a customer service manual for Starbucks cashiers and drink mixers, or as the book euphemistically calls them, "Partners" and "Baristas."

The biggest surprise I got from reading this book is how Starbucks wonderfully treats the lowest ranking employees very well in terms of pay, benefits, and bonuses. The book explains how Starbucks management listens to even the lowest level employees to improve quality of service. However, that really should not come as a big surprise to any serious employer. Importance of listening to and investing in your employees should be common sense if you want to be successful as a team.

The entire book rants constantly about how a wonderful Partner or Barista at Starbucks did something wonderful to a customer, from start to finish. It's dry and linear. Perhaps I'm disappointed because I read a better book on Starbucks. Excellent customer service alone does not explain tremendous success of a business. You will find no insightful analysis on the subject as you would in more informative books, like, for example "Starbucked by Taylor Clark." So if that's what you are expecting, this is the wrong book for you. However, if you want a million "inspiring" customer service stories to tell your employees and make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside, then this is the greatest book for it.
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VINE VOICEon May 31, 2007
I received THE STARBUCKS EXPERIENCE as a gift. Since I'm not in the business world by profession, I assume it was given to me because I am a loyal Starbucks customer. Venti Hot Chocolate (sometimes referred to as cocoa) is my usual beverage. I frequent about three different Starbucks and after two visits, the baristas know my drink before I order it. While I have discovered not all Starbucks are created equally, usually the service is good, the employees friendly, the atmosphere comfortable, and the beverage is how I'd like it or pretty close to it. Since Starbucks is still growing and most of the shops seem to be thriving, Starbucks has to be doing something right, and if you're curious as to what it might be, chances are you'll find the answers in this rather interesting volume.

Author Joseph Michelli is a motivational speaker for businesses and believes that the success of Starbucks can serve as inspiration for other businesses. He discusses the phenomenal growth of the company and how a successful business can grow from using a product people enjoy but take for granted, turn the use of the product into a pleasant experience, and get results, which is essentially the secret to Starbucks' many achievements in the world of business.

Michelli believes that Starbucks is guided buy five principles that make the business successful:

1. Make it your own: all people in the organization feel a true sense of ownership and believe that they have a stake in the success of the company.

2. Everything matters: What goes on behind the counter is just as important as what customers see. Cleanliness, atmosphere, a desired product, customer service, are all important and no detail should ever be overlooked.

3. Surprise and delight: Using as an example the success of Crackerjacks as a snack that people enjoyed that also caught them by surprise when first introduced, Starbucks tries to have new and innovative ways to attract new customers and keep committed customers interested so that the business never becomes static.

4. Embrace resistance: Starbucks, unlike many businesses, does not rely on good public relations to be rid of problems and criticisms. Instead, Starbucks tries to engage in discussions with its dissenters to convince where it's necessary and change when change is what is necessary. Michelli uses Fair Trade policies as a case in point as to how Starbucks has been criticized and how it has responded using this principle.

5. Leave your mark: Making money may be a goal of any business, but businesses also have a responsibility to contribute to the greater good. Starbucks does this through financial transparency, involvement in the community, a commitment to making sure that its suppliers are justly paid, and delivering a quality product.

Though Michelli's admiration of Starbucks could lead readers to believe he was hired by Starbucks as a public relations person, writing in the superlative may be a byproduct of his motivational talks. He presents a book that seems to be sound for businesses, but as someone involved in the non-profit world, namely a church, I can see how these principles would work for charities, churches, schools, social service agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. The book promotes excellence in a caring, committed, and purposeful way which can change the way corporations can do business and can help nonprofits remain innovative and relative too.
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on November 5, 2006
At first, I thought this book was going to be one big ad for Starbucks and maybe it is, but it's also interesting to know what a corporation that could be seen as a moneygrubbing, luxury retailer is doing right.

Beyond the tips on how to connect with your customer and how to sell your product is insight on what Starbucks does behind the scenes. For example, they make it a point to know what their coffee suppliers are paying their coffee pickers or how much pesticide is used, etc. to 'work with coffee farmers to ensure (a) high-quality product and promote equitable relationships with farmers, workers, communities, as well as protect the environment'. They work with socially-conscious groups for everything from water sanitation in third world countries to tutoring local kids. And of course, they're also trying to make a difference at home base by simply reacting to customer concerns quickly (e.g. putting a changetable in the washroom, personally going out to buy a coat hook for a regular customer).

One thing I loved were a lot of stories dealing with how partners (i.e. the person serving you your morning scone, baristas) take ownership of situations and devote their own time/money to customer experience. You have to be doing something right when you can make someone recognize that his/her job is not just a job.

Lastly, I liked how this book wasn't just about horn tooting. Sometimes Starbucks failed. Maybe they wanted to open a store in an area that was unwelcoming and couldn't warm up the community. Maybe their new drink wasn't well-received and had to be discontinued. And no, they don't always connect with the customer and they're not always consistent with quality. They recognize there have been different problems and experiences and not every customer leaves with a hug and smile.

All in all, this is a great book to talk about corporate practices that enable progression of your core business by not just focusing on the benjamins.
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on November 27, 2006
The Starbucks Experience attempts to explain the reason behind Starbucks' success using customer anecdotes, insider stories, and the occasional business strategy thrown in for good measure. The book is a fascinating study; stressing the very unique mindset this organization has over most of the businesses in our market today. For example, they offer benefits for part-time employees working as little as 20 hours a week, including adoption assistance, stock options, and health insurance. They build stores in such close proximity that they are oftentimes competing directly with one another. And they sell a product that until a few years ago most of us just brewed at home or paid a few cents at a gas station for on our way to work.

To put perspective on Starbucks' success, author Joseph Michelli states, "if you had "invested $10,000 in the Starbucks IPO on the Nasdaq in 1992, your investment would be worth approximately $650,000 today." If that weren't enough Michelli tells us "Starbucks opens five (5) new stores every day - 365 days a year." And yet through all this, they have maintained their level of quality - oftentimes a tough thing to do when a company expands at such a level.

The Starbucks Experience reads more like an autobiography than it does a business case study, and that alone should give you some insight into just how unique an organization Starbucks is. The book outlines five "experiences" that Starbucks uses to drive their company. Note that these principles are vague in description, making them easy to apply to any aspect of the company - from management through R&D to customer service. They are:

1. Make it your own

2. Everything matters

3. Surprise and delight

4. Embrace resistance

5. Leave your mark

Each one of these principles are given more attention, for example under the first principle of "Make it your own" the company further lists "be welcoming, be genuine, be considerate, be knowledgeable, and be involved" and stresses that these aren't just for the retail level folks but for every area of the company. At the end of each principle is a "create your own experience" segment which rephrases the principle in a way businesses can apply to their own brands, and an "ideas to sip on" thought that gives an overview of the chapter.

Still, with all of these insights there is no surefire list to follow, no defined strategies. All in all The Starbucks Experience serves more to add to the mystique of Starbucks' success than it does to define it in a way other organizations can emulate. However, the author's eighteen-month study of the chain does provide enough information to at least get you inspired and looking at your business an entirely different way.
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on June 11, 2007
Whether you love or hate big companies like Starbucks put it aside! Any business owner or worker providing service to clients (ie: most of us) can learn something from this book. The simple principal identified in this book as "surprise and delight" is so lacking in most businesses who leave us every day without any reason to talk about them. Loved the idea about the coffee cup on taxi advertising - I would have bought the book just for that idea alone! PS - I don't drink coffee, nor is there a Starbucks in my town, but I believe you can learn from any business!

Kirsty Dunphey, author: Retired at 27, If I can do it anyone can
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VINE VOICEon April 24, 2012
This book is a MUST read for baristas and other Starbucks employees as it reaffirms WHY Starbucks is the number one coffee shop in the world. The employees meet expectations of their customers as the third place and it goes beyond getting a hot cup of coffee or icy frappuccino. It means making contact with the customer by smiling and asking about their day and the ritual of writing their name on their cup and remembering their order if they are a regular. It means surprising them by connecting with them on a deeper level with humor and compassion whenever possible. It means offering a fair trade product and be involved in the community that Starbucks thrives in and making it a better place for those businesses around them. It means offering health insurance to part time employees and understanding the Starbucks experience means extraordinary commitment to excellence above and beyond their product.
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