Drinking Your Own Champagne

Starbucks & Peet’s – Compare & Contrast

We used to have this horrible expression ‘Eating your own dogfood“. I get what it is all about – do the people (marketers in my case) who develop and decide on product features ever use their own products? If they do, one would be driven to the conclusion (in the majority of cases) that they are very strange people indeed! So, I prefer the version in the title, but whatever we use as a phrase to describe it, it only works if marketers do indeed eat or drink of their product.

Where I grew up, in the North of England, I remember the wholesale destruction and rebuilding of the town where I spent my teenage years. The town centre was razed and built as a concrete monstrosity as were many of the Victorian era slums. I visited a friend in his mum’s shiny new place – a block of flats – and came away thinking ‘Would the guy who designed these actually want to live in them?’. 25 years later they were demolished as they had rapidly become the slums they were intended to replace – so much for the brave new world of our betters ‘knowing what we need’.

Back to my point, marketers (or architects!) need to build products and services that reflect the REAL needs and wants of customers, not those that THEY THINK they should have – or worse, deserve. I saw a quote from Steelcase’s CEO, James Hackett who asks in product planning pitches from his marketers ‘What customer insight drove this product feature’ (the articles in in Business Week) and goes on to describe the consternation that such a question caused at first.

I got here by my mind wandering – in the queue for coffee – to a ‘compare and contrast’ thought. I buy coffee from both Starbucks and from Peet’s regularly – and the experience is very, very different. It used to be simple: Peet’s had the best coffee. Starbucks had bathrooms, wireless, a place to sit – and Peet’s had none of these. Also the people (almost all of whom are FANTASTIC in either chain) are very different. More varied in Peet’s, a little edgier (for example, tattoos, piercings and interesting hair are widely evident in Peet’s, Starbucks much more ‘corporate’ though diverse). And Starbucks is all process and efficient flow through the store: Peet’s has an air of slight disorganization and chaos – but nice chaos. Finally, to go with the best coffee, Peet’s sells and grinds beans (I know Starbucks sell beans, but I get the impression that beans are about as important as the bears and the other stuff they clog the stores with) and you get the smell of cofee – none of that at Starbucks. I do hear that Starbucks has recognized the power of the smell of coffee and is working to reintroduce it!

Recently though, Peet’s started opening new stores that had bathrooms (only one mind you!), a limited amount of seating and a new layout. Which gets me to my point – eventually!

The new and refurbished stores have a long narrow format, with the counter on the right, stretching about 2/3 the length of the store. The line to buy goes down the left side of the store and people are called to be served by walking back towards the door. When they have given their order, they walk to the pickup which is at the BACK of the store and in doing so, they have to fight their way through the line that is waiting 🙂 Oh, and to compound the problem, once the drink is collected, the sugar, milk, jackets, etc. are stored on a servery on the left wall – you guessed it, right by the head of the line! So now we have a huge scrum in the middle of the store and it creates absolute chaos.

The customers talk about – or more rightly ask ‘Why?’ whilst in line. A simple change that moves the waiting line to the right and then flows from the door to the pickup point (a la Starbucks!) would resolve the problem, but no, there is a sign and rope barrier to direct and corral any recalcitrant customer with a brain.

So back to our marketers; hopefully I’ve already established that the whole experience is important? And I’ve talked elsewhere about empowered employees in many posts here. So the customers know that the flow is braindead and inconvenient and, it turns out, so do the staff. My favorite server is Molly. I asked her one day why it was the way it was. She, and other staff, recognized the problem. But I didn’t get the impression that head office did! But why oh why don’t the staff (or manager!) take it upon themselves to ditch the system and move the line to the right? Go on Molly!

I did tell Molly that I was going to write about it in my blog; I promised to make her famous – but only on the proviso that she had to sign autographs! So, if you know your local Peet’s and there is Molly behind the counter, ask her for her autograph – she is a real superstar – and tell her I sent you!

In the meantime, I’ll wait for the new marketing manager (I see that Peet’s are advertising….) to make his or her mark. I wonder how long I will wait……..

{WOM, Brand, Customer Service, Product Management}

Technorati Tags: Brand, Customer Service, Marketing, Product, Product Management, User Experience, WOM

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