Last week, Starbucks closed all of its stores for racial sensitivity training after an incident in April when two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia store.
My Take: Starbucks training was well intentioned, but misguided.
As I said in my previous post, it’s great that Starbucks’ leaders took such swift and decisive action to condemn the incident. So what’s wrong with Starbucks doing sensitivity training? Nothing. It doesn’t hurt, but it also doesn’t address the right long-term problem.
Employees don’t change who they are when they go to work. They’re the same people before and after their shift as they are when they’re wearing green aprons. Rather than trying to change who employees are as people (which has little chance of lasting success), Starbucks needs to focus on how those employees view their role when they are at work.
That’s why Starbucks should focus its training on its brand values, not on racial sensitivity.
One of our Four CX Core Competencies is Compelling Brand Values. Companies need to use their brand as a blueprint for how they treat customers. To do that, they must focus on the promises that they make to customers through three steps:
- Make Promises. Ensure promises are clearly and explicitly defined.
- Embrace Promises: Help employees understand their critical role in delivering on the promises.
- Keep Promises: Hold the organization accountable to fulfilling the promises.
Temkin Group hasn’t worked directly with Starbucks, but if we did, we would have encouraged the leadership to create a set of customer promises that looked something like this:
We (Starbucks) promise to act in a way that our customers consistently:
- Feel Welcomed. We will treat everyone who comes into one of our stores as our guests, whether they’re buying food or just hanging out.
- Feel Sustained. We will provide wholesome food and beverages that are made with the freshest, healthiest ingredients.
- Feel Inspired. We will provide an environment where our customers can comfortably meet and talk to others, dream big thoughts, or just relax.
- Feel Heard: We will relish feedback from our customers, and view it as an opportunity to celebrate or improve.
- Feel Valued. We will show our appreciation for every customer.
The training should have been about embracing & keeping these types of customer promises. Employees should have gone over multiple scenarios (including the one that happened in Philadelphia) and discussed how employees had either kept or broken those promises. Employees should also have discussed things that they can do to better keep the promises.
In other words, even racially insensitive employees should understand that the incident was unacceptable because it breaks one of Starbucks’ brand promises.
Starbucks leaders can’t treat this as a training issue, it’s a cultural issue. As we’ve discussed, culture is how people think, believe, and act. Starbucks leaders must do more than deploy a bunch of training if they expect to see any lasting change.
This is not just an issue at Starbucks. Very few companies actively help their employees embrace their brand values, as you can see in this data from the State of CX Management, 2018.
Organizations shouldn’t hire people who are racially insensitive and try to train them not to be. They should train employees as part of an overall approach that helps them embrace and keep their customer promises.
The bottom line: Don’t undo employees’ upbringing, get them to embrace your brand values.
P.S. Racial insensitivity is clearly a problem in our society. This is part of why we have made 2018, The Year of Humanity. Please join Temkin Group in our efforts to try and improve humanity!
This blog post was originally published by Temkin Group prior to its acquisition by Qualtrics in October 2018.