Saturday, October 18, 2008

LIS 768: Context Book-The Starbucks Experience

I want to preface this all by stating unequivocally that I am not a coffee drinker. Never have been--I always joke that I'm not old enough to drink coffee. Give me an ice cold Diet Coke anyday! So, it's no surprise that I don't frequent places like Starbucks (but I have been in Scotland). But, this book, The Starbucks Experience by Joseph A. Michelli caught my eye one day when I was walking through the Business section at Barnes & Noble. Well, actually, the subtitle was what got my attention: "5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary."

It seems that a phrase I often hear in the library world is how the library is (or should be) considered a "Third Place"-not home, not work, but another place to meet and hang out with friends. It may seem like a stretch to compare Starbucks and libraries, technology, and participatory service...but I assure you, it works. Starbucks really gets that concept, and actively works to make the stores that Third Place. Some libraries also get that concept...others, not so much (yeah, I'm looking at you, libraries with the 32 this-that-and-the-other NOT ALLOWED signs up).

As the subtitle promises, The Starbucks Experience identifies 5 key principles that have helped to make Starbucks such a beloved third place:

  • Make it Your Own

  • Everything Matters

  • Surprise and Delight

  • Embrace Resistance

  • Leave Your Mark

Although libraries could stand to learn something from each of these, the 3 that really stand out for me as a place to start are: Make it Your Own, Everything Matters, & Embrace Resistance.

In the 'Make it Your Own' section, there is what Michelli says Starbucks terms the "Five Ways of Being" (p. 20).

  • Be welcoming

  • Be genuine

  • Be considerate

  • Be knowledgeable

  • Be involved

Now, to me, those are just common sense--but maybe it's just because I worked in the retail sector for so long. The patrons are why I have a job. End of story. If the patrons aren't happy, they will go someplace else. If they go someplace else and the library isn't being used as much, sometime down the road that could come back to haunt us. Get to know the people you serve, especially the regulars; you don't have to become their bestest friend ever, but at least be friendly and considerate.

Everything Matters: yes, it surely does. One of the quotes from this section that really resonated with me is on p. 51: "...finding ways to deliver existing products and services in ways that make the brand more significant to the customer." Wow. How revolutionary would THAT be in the library world? (Or maybe just in my small corner) Instead of telling patrons how important libraries are, how about just showing them?

Finally, Embrace Resistance. "Starbucks management...has built a company on the willingness to actively listen to criticism"(p. 111). How many libraries can say the same? If patrons are actually taking the time to give feedback to their libraries, that should be viewed as an opportunity, not as a bad thing. More often than not, unhappy patrons don't say anything to the library...they just don't come back. However, they may say plenty to their friends, family, and social circle.

Sometimes it seems the library world has a sense of, "Well, seriously. We're free. What's better than free?" Uh, good customer service? Giving the patrons what they want, not what we either think they should want, or what we feel like allowing them to have on any given visit? Actively listening to what they say, even criticism, and taking that as an opportunity to fine-tune the services offered?

Starbucks has successfully transformed its stores into that "Third Place." Libraries could stand to learn from their business model.

1 comment:

Michael Stephens said...

This rocks. In light of a post I just did about a library's list of rules...I wish they could see this post. Good stuff!