The Starbucks Experience: Book Summary

by | Jun 7, 2021 | Reading

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I recently read The Starbucks Experience by Joseph A. Michelli and I have to say I was extremely impressed with the culture that Starbucks is cultivating internally with their employees which leads to exceptional customer service. 

If you are looking for ways to improve your team’s culture and/or increase your customer experience, then I highly recommend this book. You can purchase it here.

Below are some of my highlights from reading this book…



    • The employee turnover rate at Starbucks, according to some reports, is 120% less than the industry average. Maryann Hammers states in Workforce Management, “Starbucks employees have an 82% job-satisfaction rate, according to a Hewitt Associates Starbucks Partner View Survey. This compares to a 50% satisfaction rate for all employers and 74% for Hewitt’s ’Best Place to Work’ employers.” 
    • The Starbucks Experience reflects tenets that are simple, yet not simplistic. They are results-oriented and can be deceptively powerful when applied:
        1. Make it your own
        2. Everything matters
        3. Surprise and delight
        4. Embrace resistance
        5. Leave your mark

PRINCIPLE 1: Make It Your Own

    • The “Five Ways of Being”
        • Be welcoming
        • Be genuine
        • Be considerate
        • Be knowledgeable
        • Be involved
    • At Starbucks, that discretion comes in the form of giving priority to being welcoming, demonstrating generally what being welcoming looks like, refreshing that image, and then letting people make that concept their own as they bring it into the lives of those they serve. 
    • The concept of what it takes to be genuine is fairly straightforward, but profound. At Starbucks, being genuine means to “connect, discover, and respond.” 
    • When Starbucks leaders ask partners to “be knowledgeable,” they are encouraging employees to “love what they do and share it with others.” 
    • Leaders encourage employees to go beyond just doing their day-to-day job, and instead invest with attentive, creative, and passionate energy. 


PRINCIPLE 2: Everything Matters

    • Howard Schultz is fond of saying that “retail is detail.” 
    • Managers have to constantly put themselves in the shoes of their customers, seeing everything from the other side of the counter.
    • Every company’s brand is nothing more than the sum total of the individual actions its people take. 
    • Not only does everything matter; everyone matters as well.


PRINCIPLE 3: Surprise and Delight

    • Consumers want predictable and consistent, with an occasional positive twist or added value thrown in. 
    • Rather than encouraging trite customer service sayings like “Have a nice day” or other scripted communications, successful leaders help staff look for genuine opportunities to do the positively unexpected. 
    • When businesses partner with customers in these personal ways, they create a loyalty that is far greater than what a company could obtain by simply serving a high-quality product. Business leaders give their people the opportunity and permission to make a real connection with their customers. 
    • Predictability produces customer delight…And even when something goes wrong, an employee or manager can still delight the customer by going the extra mile to make things right. Delight is the result of an unwavering commitment to creating a comfortable and trusted customer relationship.


PRINCIPLE 4: Embrace Resistance

    • Embrace Resistance…This principle requires leaders to distinguish between customers who want their concerns to be resolved and those individuals who will never stop complaining or be satisfied. 
    • Successful leaders do not hide from difficult challenges. They approach complex and controversial issues with a willingness to benefit from the concerns raised by commentators and adversaries.
    • District manager Renny Freet: “Embracing resistance is a lot about respecting other people’s perspectives.” 


PRINCIPLE 5: Leave Your Mark

    • Employee morale is three times higher in firms that are actively involved in the community than in their less-involved counterparts. When employees’ work environments match their personal values, they are more productive. 
    • Starbucks challenges its staff members to make their individual mark right where they live. In support of this, Starbucks makes a $10 per hour contribution, up to $1,000 per project, to the qualifying organization where the partner volunteers. 
    • To the benefit of Starbucks, volunteerism strengthens team identity and enhances leadership abilities. 


A Final Word

    • Your guiding tenets need to offer a flexible structure so that you can implement those values while fostering the special gifts and passions of young people.
    • Starbucks is an excellent model of how a company can become a learning institution. Starbucks leaders understand the importance of taking feedback, both positive and negative, and disseminating it throughout the company for collective education and adaptation.


Game Plan

Consider doing a personal inventory of how you stack up against the Starbucks Experience principles. Consider the following questions:

    • How consistently welcoming am I?
    • What details do I tend to overlook?
    • Where can I offer more surprise or delight in my workplace?
    • In what situations do I embrace resistance, and when do I run from it?
    • What mark am I leaving at work, at home, and in my community? 


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