I had a good latte experience today.
I bought a tall soy latte at a Starbucks in Huntington Beach this morning. That’s not unusual. What was unusual was that the young lady behind the counter, recognizing that I normally pull out my laptop to work, asked me, “Would you like that in a to go cup or in a ceramic cup?” I chose ceramic. It was my first Starbucks latte in a ceramic cup.
Why? I had never been asked that question before. When I told her that, she shared with me that it is a question every Starbucks employee is supposed to ask. We continued our conversation and as I stood waiting for my latte I noticed a small white board with a large number 81 prominently displayed on the door from the front of the shop to the back of the shop. It was their “customer voice” number.
Of course, I asked what the number meant and she somewhat reluctantly told me it was the past month’s percentage of customer satisfaction for this store. She wasn’t particularly happy with it. She pointed out that things like her being the first person to ask if I’d like a ceramic cup contribute to that low score. “The score is only from those who actually fill out the online survey if they’re asked to,” she said. “And only a small percentage of people actually do that.” And those survey requests are random and spit out by the cash register. She can’t just ask me, someone she knows is engaged and satisfied, to go fill out a survey.
What struck me most about the sign was not just that the number was so large and easy to see, even by customers, but that the goals derived from the survey responses were made clear as well. The survey was not there to simply provide a rating, but to inform their behavior and suggest ways to improve. The goals for the month were expressed as “opportunities.” They were:
- Taste of beverage – a specific area of focus for improvement
- Speed of service – a specific area of focus for improvement
- Mondays/Saturdays – the days they received their lowest scores.
- MidDay/Evenings – the times of the day they received their lowest scores.
All of this was communicated to me by a barista, not a manager. The information gathered by the surveys had been communicated in a way that the employee could understand and put into play in improving the consumer experience. And she seemed to genuinely care. There’s magic in that.
The latte vision for real estate.
“We need a big vision for the overly complicated real estate process. Here is mine: Make the mechanics of buying a home as easy as buying a latte, so homebuyers can focus on the right things,” Brad Inman said. Whether you believe this is an achievable goal or not, the vision is certainly worthy of conversation.
Brad laid out this vision in the months preceding January’s Inman Connect in New York. His focus, and the focus of the panel dedicated to the topic, was clearly set on the mechanics of the buying process, with a special emphasis on paperless transactions. It’s more generic focus was on bringing already existing technologies to bear on the process of buying a home to improve the customer experience. Notice the focus on “customer experience.”
“The biggest problem (in the real estate industry) is in the age of technology, the age of social, the age of mobile,” Eric Bryn offered, “how can I better align the client with the sales associate to make sure that conversation is meaningful, engaged and informative?” When I asked Eric what he meant by “informative,” he told me the following.
In this context, I was using “informative” in the following manner: (a) ensure that an agent has all the necessary, timely, relevant, and contextual information necessary to meet the needs of his or her client and (b) the client has the same so as to make better decisions related to a transaction and the advice received from his or her agent. It’s essentially about data and systems design empowering better decision-making and collaboration.
How do you make sure agents have “all the necessary, timely, relevant, and contextual information necessary to meet the needs of his or her client?” That’s a big question. But you don’t have a chance if you don’t really understand the needs of the client, and whether or not they are being consistently met. Some of the data that must be collected must be collected from the client directly. This seems obvious to me. Apparently it’s obvious to Starbucks as well.
The latte vision necessarily must include listening to your customer.
And by listening to the customer, I mean listening in a way that can be measured. My vision for bringing RealSatisfied to North America was NOT to make it easier for real estate agents to collect testimonials, or to make it easier for agents to push customer satisfaction ratings to Yelp, Realtor.com, Trulia or Zillow, though it enables all of those things. The goal in bringing RealSatisfied here was to make it easier for real estate companies to collect information from consumers that would allow them to make informed decisions about what was right and wrong with how their brand was being experienced.
We use the Peter Drucker quote “things that don’t get measured, don’t get managed” all the time at RealSatisfied. But there is another Drucker quote that applies here as well. “Management by objective works – if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time you don’t.”
The objectives for the Starbucks at 7881 Edinger Avenue are clear, make your beverages taste better, get them out faster and pay attention to your performance on Mondays, Saturdays, mid-day and evenings. They only arrived at those by asking random customers to give their feedback. They’ll only know they’ve improved by doing it over and over again, month after month after month.
Starbucks has a system for getting direct customer feedback, and a way to communicate goals derived from that feedback to the people who touch their customer every single day.
If you’re a real estate company leader, do you? It should be part of your own latte vision.