I've always liked Starbucks -- the coffee, the stores and the company. Yesterday, I had an especially inspiring experience at a Starbucks store, with special coffee and personal service by a wonderful barista, while meeting with an extremely creative former Starbucks employee.
I went to the Starbucks at Overlake Village to meet with Paul Williams, who recently left Starbucks to start his own company, Idea Sandbox, to help "connect people with solutions" [aside: I am really enjoying connecting with people who are about connecting people lately ... we connectors have to click together! <groan>]. I met Paul through his blog, while searching for information on ThinkSpot before the Idea Day event I went to last month. Paul had been thinking -- and blogging -- about a ThinkSpot-like spot, and discovered this "meeting place with attitude" very shortly before signing a lease for a place in which he intended to create a very similar space across the street from the ThinkSpot. I did some "lateral browsing" on Paul's site, read about Idea Sandbox and several other posts -- including his very creative "odranoeL ekiL etirW" idea -- and, as I am increasingly wont to do when I meet an interesting person in the blogosphere (who lives in the local area), sent an email to see if we might get together.
I arrived a bit early, and asked Arlene, the barista, whether it might be possible to sample the Kenya Kirinyaga, which has an interesting description, but at $13 for a half-pound, represents a non-trivial investment (for me). She kindly offered to make a press pot for me. Paul arrived as she was doing so, and we soon went over to our table. A short time later, Arlene brought over the press pot with two small cups so that we could both enjoy the sample (which we did, thoroughly). After an hour or so, she brought over a couple of cups of icewater and straws, saying she thought maybe we might be getting thirsty. Paul and I were engaged in a pretty lively and far-ranging conversation, and although I hadn’t recognized it, I was thirsty!
Ironically, one of the many topics Paul and I were talking about was the Starbucks experience -- what Howard Schultz describes as one "where you are treated positively, where someone goes out of her way to make you feel special, where you're welcomed with a smile and assumed to be intelligent". This was one of the most outstanding café experiences I have had anywhere. I really felt like Arlene took a very personal interest in ensuring that we had the best possible experience, and she was very successful. Not only did it reflect well on Arlene and that store, but the entire Starbucks brand received a big boost in my mind (and it already enjoyed a strong personal brand position).
Arlene left the store before we did, so Paul picked up a card from Amy, the store manager, that had the mantra “Make a difference in someone’s day” on the back. Arlene certainly made a big difference in my day, and I look forward to future Starbucks experiences!