Starbucks sells a lot more than coffee

I have a brilliant but antagonistic friend who has big issues with my deep admiration for Howard Schultz;  he doesn’t understand how I can admire a man who figured out a way to charge $4 for coffee. I don’t admire Schultz simply for his genuine rags to riches story, or his Indivisible campaign… although the latter is something that I think is remarkably inspiring.

My admiration for Schultz and the company he created began when I fell in love with his product… and in case you didn’t notice, his product is NOT coffee.  As a VP- Sales who traveled extensively to manage Sales Reps Starbucks isn't about the coffeeworking primarily out of their vehicles, I spent hours upon hours having meetings in Starbucks.  I don’t even drink coffee, but I am intensely loyal to the brand that Schultz built.  Here’s why:

1. Consistent quality products; I’m a big tea drinker – try getting a decent cuppa anywhere outside of a major metropolitan area that ISN’T Starbucks.

2. Always friendly and helpful employees.

3. Comfortable and attractive interiors.

4. Never the feeling that you’ve overstayed your welcome.

5. Free wi-fi

I know there are plenty of Starbucks haters who deride the demise of the independent coffee house, and I totally get that… but most of us living outside of major cities never had a decent coffee shop, let alone a pleasant place to meet for a leisurely hour.  Starbucks sold, and we BOUGHT, and experience.  A pleasant, warm, quality experience that did not exist before they built it.

The question for your company is: what’s the experience you’re building for your customers? If it’s just product, you’re in trouble, because there’s always a newer, shinier product that comes along to entice them away.  What about the experience of dealing with you will build this sort of loyalty?  It’s NEVER been just about the coffee for Starbucks.    It can’t be just about the product for you either.