HR Management & Compliance

The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary

HR consultant and author of 13 bestselling business books Carol A. Hacker reviews the book The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary by Joseph A. Michelli. Review highlights book’s examination of how Starbucks gets their employees to deliver excellent customer service.

5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary book review

The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary is a quick read, attractively laid out, and easy to put down, pick up, and keep reading with great interest. Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., is the founder of Lessons of Success, a training, consulting, and keynote presentation company. He also hosts an award-winning daily radio show on KVOR-AM in Colorado and speaks to various organizations throughout the world.

An overview of Starbucks’ growth from humble beginnings to a household name as a result of their incredibly successful management philosophy, the book has five guiding principles for turning ordinary into extraordinary whether you are a small business owner or a multi-billion dollar operation. Michelli, an outsider to Starbucks, researched this company over a period of two years. It started when he called the customer service number on the back of his Starbucks card. He then set out to explore what Starbucks calls their “customer experience” and how and why their approach to the customers has set them apart.

Starbucks’ success means five new stores every day – 365 days each year! Despite their amazing growth, the company continues to maintain their reputation for quality and a memorable customer experience. Although there are hundreds of books that have been written on the topic of customer service, what sets this one apart and helped it to quickly soar to the top of the National Bestseller list is that it’s “Starbucks” the author’s talking about. Michelli has cracked open the door for readers to take a glimpse into what makes this company run like a well-oiled machine. There is a lot here that will get the attention and benefit forward-thinking HR professionals as well as supervisors and managers throughout their organizations.

The Starbucks Experience addresses the problem of lackluster customer service. This book is successful in solving the problem because the author offers more than the typical cookie-cutter approach to good customer service, but rather the inside secrets based on a model of success. Through each of the 5 principles, Michelli provides realistic “how tos” for the reader to digest and apply as appropriate in his or her particular work environment.

It’s not rocket science, yet something as simple as reminding employees to be “litter picker-uppers” would be a new idea for some businesses. However, based on my personal experience with both retail as well as other organizations, some employers haven’t gotten the message. You never know what catches the eye of your clients or customers. You don’t want them walking away with poor lasting impressions.

Michelli notes, “Predictability, consistency, ritual, routine, community and service recovery are key. If you and your business succeed at delighting every person you work with, you will be a beloved company, and in the process your customers will get both caramelized popcorn and the prize.” (Page 107)

In addition, each of the five principles has several boxes called “Create Your Own Experience.” They help solve the problem by guiding readers and challenging them through learning points with questions. For example: “What are you doing to encourage the discovery of the unique needs of those whom you and your colleagues serve?” “What details could you attend to that probably matter to your colleagues and your business’s customers?” and “What’s your investment to serve up joy and the unexpected?

There are many similar questions that are a great jumping off point for discussion with your employees. A lack of effective communication is at the core of lack luster customer service; it starts at the top. Starbucks’ has met the challenge, and though the research and writing of Michelli, they show the world how they do it. I believe that if you take what the author says to heart, you can also be at the top of your game in keeping your clients and customers satisfied and eager to do business with you.

While I really enjoyed the book, it’s not unlike other customer service books I’ve read with many valid points and interesting ideas. Dozens are published every year with the same old material reworded under a new and attractive title. I don’t even drink coffee, and have only been in Starbucks when visiting Barnes and Noble, but there is something about the way their stores look, and of course smell, that draws me in. I was compelled to read this book to learn more about what would happen if I engaged in their “customer experience,” something I’ve heard so much about. Now that I’ve read this book, I can’t wait to visit Starbucks and give it a shot!

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Carol Hacker is an HR consultant and seminar leader who ranks among the experts in the field of recruiting and retention issues. For more than two decades, she’s been a significant voice in front-line and corporate HR management to small businesses as well as Fortune 100 companies. She’s the author of thirteen highly-acclaimed business books including the bestsellers, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions For People Who Need People and 450 Low-Cost/No-Cost Strategies for recognizing, rewarding & retaining good people. Carol can be reached at 770-410-0517 or