Ins and Outage
Starfucks sticker, Taipei, December 2007
Service outages seem to be common news stories lately. Sure, it’s news when many people in Florida lose power, but also when Pakistan causes a 2-hour YouTube blackout, BlackBerry service goes down, or Hotmail is unavailable.
There’s a sense that we are relying on far too many fragile systems and that as complexity increases, these stories will become even more commonplace (and perhaps even less newsworthy). But being forced to do without something seems to be a tactic companies enjoy using to extract a sense of the value of their service. The Whopper Freakout ad campaign is the most prominent example, but other companies such as Yahoo and Dunkin’ Donuts have conducted (consensual) user research experiments where people go without something and report back on the sense of loss.
But Starbucks pulled off the genius move, closing for a few hours to retrain staff, and making front-page news not for their failure (see: Florida, Blackberry, YouTube, Hotmail above) but for their retraining efforts towards a clarified service promise
Starbucks is welcoming customers back Wednesday with a new promise posted in stores: “Your drink should be perfect, every time. If not, let us know and we’ll make it right.”
This won’t address all of the challenges Starbucks is facing, but it’s a pretty brilliant P.R. success, hitting the denial-of-services hot button and emphasizing the valid, powerful reason behind the outage.