No one can question the phenomenal success of Starbucks. With over 2,000 stores worldwide, the company has created what it calls a “Third Space” between home and office in which to enjoy great coffee and other treats.

This is great, but I would contend that Starbucks has opportunities to improve the customer experience, and very little of it has to do with the product itself.

Here's a recent experience (my own).

Saturday, 11 a.m.: You walk in, and there's a long line. But you decide to wait because you're looking forward to a good cup of spicy chai tea. (I'm a Brit, what can I say?)

You move down the line, eyeing the mouth-watering treats, but resist in an effort to stay strong. The server makes eye contact with you. “Can I help you?” she shouts to be heard over the noise. You order, “Chai Latte Grande with skimmed milk.”

She doesn't hear you very well, so you repeat your order, raising your voice and feeling a little conspicuous, “Chai Latte Grande with skimmed milk.” She hollers to her colleague, “Grande Skim Chai.” You feel a bit silly, because you didn't say it the same way.

You pay your money and then move down to the serving area, but you're not quite sure where to wait. There are others waiting, so you back into a “free space” and try to blend in.

You're trying to remember how she described your order (which is different from what you thought you were ordering). You look and listen intently. You're looking for visual clues, eyeing others for validation. Drinks come up in pairs or more, but you ordered only one drink. Then up comes a medium-sized cup and the server calls, “Grande Skim Chai.” You think that sounds right. You lean forward to take the cup but he swings round and says, “And a Tall Mocha Latte.” Oops, not yours, so you quickly back off.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Verlander is a principal with TouchPoint Experience (www.touchpointexperience.com), based in Weston, CT.