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Six Sigma Case Study: Starbucks

In a matter of 40 years, Starbucks has gone from a stand-alone shop in Seattle to the largest coffeehouse chain in the world. No matter where you live, chances are you can find a nearby location, full with coffee enthusiasts and aficionados, alike. When entering a Starbucks, customers experience a sophisticated atmosphere. The combination of roasted beans, calming jazz music, and young professionals typing away on their notebooks creates an all too familiar sense. Yet, Starbucks has not always been a household name that teens and parents rejoice to. Like many other corporations, Starbucks attended our Lean Six Sigma training program, rolling out new operations throughout their locations. Here’s what the coffee giant did to become the success story it’s known for today!

Traditional Coffeehouses vs. Starbucks

When you think coffeehouse, you imagine a calm, relaxing environment. Maybe you picture yourself enjoying a flavorful coffee while catching up on some emails. While this image is common for most coffeehouses, Starbucks is slowly beginning to differ. As the corporation grows, it’s follower base forces it to adapts to the speed and accuracy that customers now expect. Similar to fast-food restaurants, customers want their ideal coffee, made fresh, within minutes. Starbucks saw this challenge as a way to implement Lean Six Sigma methodologies while staying true to its foundation.

Lean Six Sigma Methods

For Starbucks, management wanted to join the speed and efficiency of common fast-food restaurants with the human element customers expect. However, when attempting to do this, it’s easy for one to override the other. Knowing this, the coffee giant created two helpful changes; how customers order their coffees and their in-store experiences. First, Starbucks provides new training techniques for employees, specifically the baristas. While it’s common for the cash register to ring up orders, baristas proactively take customers’ orders before they pay. This decrease the wait time for receiving the coffee and paying for it. Another way Starbucks speeds up the ordering process is via their mobile app. On their app, you can preorder and pay for your drink to its specifications and pick it up when you arrive at the store. Ready to pick up drinks are available at the bar and organized by name.

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Remembering the Human Element

While these efficiencies have sped up the overall operations, Starbucks’ management is keen to keep the human interactions well present at each store. When ordering your drink in store, management encourages baristas to talk with customers. Asking how your day is going, if your order is your usual coffee, and other ways to make each transaction personal. Through the app, Starbucks has rolled out its own version of a loyalty program. Unlike traditional stamp cards, the mobile app allows you to collect “stars” which you can accumulate for free coffees. Additionally, meeting a certain number of transactions will get you different levels of loyalty status. This is just another way Starbucks both recognizes and rewards customers for shopping at their locations.

While Lean Six Sigma was originally designed for manufacturing and production organizations, service, hospitality, and numerous other industries have found ways to use the methodology for their benefit. Starbucks is an excellent case study example of an organization finding innovative ways to increase efficiency while retaining their individuality.

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