Three simple lessons from a visit to Starbucks. Or Four.

Retail spaces can teach you a lot of things. I once interviewed a guy who worked for auto-supplies store in California filling the racks and managing the register. He ended up as president of the company. How? He says he looked beyond the boring details of his college job and saw retailing as a learning ground for all kinds of management ideas.

I was reminded of that at my stop at Starbucks last morning. The shelves and the signage were screaming with marketing messages but the barristas were doing some pretty amazing –if basic– things. Those we take for granted as communicators. So here are the three takeaways:

  1. Know your audience. Not the trite know your audience by name, but know their preferences, to the point of knowing a bit of their personal lives.
  2. Ask a lot of questions –even though you may *know* a lot about the audience, and have a big database of information in your head and on the corporate server. Ask and you will engage…
  3. Engage in a genuine conversation –Go beyond the mundane  greetings, and leave brand conversations to the brand folk.

I don’t think managers set a timer to make sure a patron is served within a certain time. If they do, it sure doesn’t show. The lines are long, but unlike the wait in a grocery store checkout, no one seems to get impatient when the customer interacts with the service provider. Which brings me to the fourth point:

4.   Reset Expectations: Starbucks seems to set –or reset– people’s expectations when they step inside.

Do you?

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