Despite all the ways that Starbucks exemplifies the effort to provide excellent customer service, even it struggles to keep customers totally satisfied. In particular, customers pulling up to Starbucks stores with drive-through lanes recognize that the service is relatively slow (an average order takes 5 minutes to fill) and troublingly inaccurate (one study ranked it seventh in accuracy among a group of 15 drive-through retailers).

But Starbucks hasn’t gotten to where it is by ignoring the things that annoy its customers. Accordingly, it is experimenting with a curbside service, leveraging the mobile ordering option that it introduced in 2015. In this pilot program, available in just one store so far, customers can place their order through the mobile app, and a barista will deliver their latte, mocha, or tea to their car window, while they are parked at dedicated spaces in the parking lot. The idea is that the alternative option will reduce traffic in the drive-through lanes. In addition, mobile ordering (whether consumers pick up their drinks in the store or have them delivered curbside) helps baristas balance out their responsibilities, ensuring that people waiting in line get their beverages more quickly.

The next step seemingly would be delivery to people’s homes or offices. One such service provides the option to workers in the Empire State Building already. But the logistical challenges of getting a single cup of coffee to consumers in dispersed locations, while still ensuring that the beverage stays hot, has limited the expansion of this option. Still, if there is any company that might be able to figure out how to serve its customers with such convenience, it’s likely Starbucks.

Discussion Question: 

  1. What is Starbucks doing to improve customer service at the drive-through?

Source: Matthew Stern, Retail Wire, October 6, 2016