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What is the “Starbucks Name” problem that is holding back your business?

Is your given name hard to pronounce?  Do you get annoyed when it is broadcast out loud incorrectly and you have to answer to it?  I was gobsmacked to learn, recently, that there’s an entire meme around StarbucksAlter Egos.  And you know who you are… Clever customers are spelling their first names phonetically (Luisa becomes “Lewisa”).  Alternatively, customers are giving Starbucks’ baristas names which they are sure to pronounce correctly [Greek god names prevail] for example: Atlas, Mars, or Neptune. 


What does it have to do with customer service?  Every customer interaction process in every industry has some low-value steps.  These are often the most frustrating to everyone involved – for the overarching brand, they are costly.  For the customer, they are at the very least annoying, and at their worst – a


If you can think of ways that your customers are finding “workarounds” to customer interaction issues – you could be on the path to trailblazing anew – and to resolving some utter nuisances and major pain points for your customers.


Starbucks has adopted mobile technology, presumably for this very reason.  Today customers can pay with their mobile device, but how long before they can place orders via mobile or online – much the way Apple Retail allows you to sign up online for the Genius bar.  Then, you see your name in lights, and it will be – at least – spelled correctly.

Dave McClure, a venture capitalist / investor / entrepreneur, writes about how restaurant “menus suck” and entrepreneurs are reinventing the dining experience here.   This is a great example.   Menus are a low-value, analog way of communicating with your customers.   Often rife with errors, omissions, unforgiving, and worst of all, the establishment doesn’t know you as a customer – it’s just one size fits all.  How amazing could a restaurant become that converts a low-value step in a high-value experience?  My mind wanders at the possibilities.

So how do you weed out these low value steps? 

  • Go mobile.  Mobile apps today run the gamut from simple engagement applications to full fledged ordering and payment devices.  What low value customer interaction could be replaced with a high engagement mobile app?
  • Tie your web presence to your physical presence. Think about how Apple retail stores allow self-service and spot-on customer records to their
    employees working the floor of the shop.  How amazing is it to get your receipt mailed to you?  Pretty amazing.  What low value step in your physical
    locations already exists when you shop online?
  • Be more social.  Often some of the worst experiences are due to the “old” channels of communication.  Who likes to sit on hold where you are cautioned to “listen carefully because the menu has recently changed.”  A simple reply on Twitter or a message on Facebook lowers the barriers and puts you where your customers are already.

All of which tie nicely and neatly into a 360 degree view of the customer, no matter what the industry or who, ultimately, the customer is. 

So ask yourself: what is the “Starbucks Name” problem in your customer service, customer fulfillment or ecommerce shopping process, and how can you fix it?  I’d love to hear from you and share innovative approaches.

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