How Starbucks uses technology to enrich human connections

As Starbucks continues to focus on its notion of driving human connections across customers and employees it has successfully deployed Workplace by Facebook to bring together its store managers around the world. 

Martin Brok, president of EMEA at Starbucks, said the social engagement platform has been employed around the company for supporting and engaging with its colleagues around the world.

“It’s off-the-shelf technology that’s making a huge difference to the company. It’s driving peer-level engagement like we’ve not seen before. As many as 80% of managers use it on a weekly basis to connect and share ideas and to improve the customer experience,” he said at the Tech. event in London this week.

The Workplace platform has enabled various groups to come together from across the globe to share their ideas and inspiration. One such group is called ‘What’s that SKU?’ and involves managers across US stores connecting to help each other tackle problems in real-time. Brok says this can resolve issues much quicker than contacting head office.

Being able to solve operational challenges and also better embed the Starbucks brand in the company’s managers and employees via this platform is particularly important because in some regions including Europe as much as 80% of Starbucks’ stores are licensed.

“If you are a store manager in the North of Scotland then your district manager comes by once a week but do senior leaders visit? No. If you are part of the Alshaya group in Asia then how deeply rooted are you to the Starbucks brand? Workplace helps provide these deeper connections,” explains Brok.

Such a tool is vital to Starbucks fulfilling its notion of it being the third place (between work and home) where human interactions are key. But being able to deliver this at scale – across its 28,000 outlets – has been a major challenge.

It is using technology in various ways to achieve this objective including its Rewards programme that captures data on its customers’ behaviours and buying habits and can use this to drive personalisation through tailored offers on a one-to-one basis.

Brok also outlined how technology was being specifically used to remove elements of friction for customers, particularly through it’s extremely popular Mobile Order & Pay solution: “We’ve acknowledged a friction point around people not having time to wait for their order in-store so with this [app] they can place an order, walk in and skip the queue.”

Such use of technology has led Starbucks to very much take a multi-channel view of its business. “We’ve taken a different approach to traditional retail. Some pundits say digital is the death of retail but we say physical and digital go hand-in-hand,” says Brok.

The fulfilment of this belief is fully played out at the new Starbucks Roastery store in Milan that brings together the roasting process, cafe and digital components, which Brok says highlights the company’s developments with “innovations, new experiences and enhanced customer connections”.