Starbucks: Handling a Negative Situation

Police Arresting Black Man at Starbucks

How did Starbucks handle a very bad situation?

As most of you have heard by now, Starbucks was at the center of a viral story last week when an employee at a Philadelphia location called the police on two African American men because the two men were sitting in the store without purchasing anything and had refused to leave. They were waiting on a third person to show up for a meeting. The arrest of the two men was captured on video that has since gone viral, sparking accusations of discrimination and racial profiling.

While that situation is extremely unfortunate, like any large company, especially one with 10,000 locations and 100,000 employees, poor judgment is bound to happen. What typically happens next is too often corporate cover up, i.e. United CEO Oscar Munoz made matters worse after passenger was dragged off plane. However Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson did not point any fingers or argue that it was loitering, instead he immediately called the incident “reprehensible.” Johnson then flew to Philly along with Chairman Howard Schultz to meet with the two men arrested and announced that Starbucks will be closing all their locations nationwide for racial-bias education on May 29.

Given how poorly the majority of large businesses handle when something goes wrong, I would have to say Starbucks handling of this situation is a case study for the right way to address an extremely negative situation.


Own It

The company and more importantly the CEO needs to take full responsibility, figure out exactly what went wrong, and create a process so it will never happen again. This is one of the X Commandments of The DiJulius Group consulting process. One of the most critical, VII Zero Risk teaches your company to anticipate your service defects and to have protocols in place to make it right.


4 Steps To Service Recovery

  1. Do not take the advice of in house council or anyone that is only about covering your ass and deflecting blame. That typically does more damage then just owning it and being transparent.
  2. Be totally transparent. Admit what happened, take full blame, apologize, and share how you are going to make sure it won’t happen again.
  3. Investigate where the breakdown/service defect occurred and create a better system to reduce the chances of this happening in the future.
  4. Make it right. Do whatever you have to externally for the affected Customer and internally to make sure the likelihood of this reoccurring is dramatically reduced.


Recommended Video Clip To Share With Your Team

Watch this short video on Where Does Service Aptitude Come From?


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About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.