Make it Technology-Aided and Human-Powered: Deliver a Flourish of Humanity

Thank you for joining me for this series titled “Make it Technology-Aided and Human-Powered.” This series provides tools to help you position your customer and employee experience for relevance in a COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world. This is the final installment in this series.

In my last post, I focused on creating, at minimum, two customer journeys – a digital-only and high human touch option. In this installment, I want to use a company with whom I’ve consulted and written two books about as an example. That company is…Starbucks.

Like all retail and restaurant brands, Starbucks took a massive hit throughout the pandemic, but as of today, 90% of its stores remain open. That is a stark contrast to most global restaurant chains. I am convinced that Starbucks’ pre-pandemic investments in technology and people contributed to the company’s resilience.

Here’s an example, in a blog I wrote in October 2019, I highlighted five hybrid customer experience solutions Starbucks was exploring. In that post, I said:

“Watch for ‘Starbucks Pick-up’ stores to be piloted in New York City soon. According to Starbucks leaders, this new concept will be ‘unlike any Starbucks you’ve seen before—a space devoted entirely to mobile orders, with no obstacles standing between you and your coffee.’

I also noted that in Shanghai, Starbucks announced it was launching voice ordering and product delivery using Alibaba’s smart speaker and suggested we should look for US delivery to follow.

Pick-up only and coffee delivery were just two of the five Starbucks investments I noted in the third quarter of 2019. For our purpose today, I will highlight the “pick-up only in-store test that took place in New York City last year. Long before COVID-19, Starbucks had developed mobile-pay and mobile order technology (digital-only options) that removed customer pain associated with waiting in line and made payment contactless. The 2019 test, focused on additional ease and customization that mixed mobile ordering with human delivery. You would place your order on your mobile device and pay with a swipe of your finger. You would then walk-in to receive your handcrafted beverage from a smiling barista.

There would be no ordering in the store and no robots automating the drink handoff. Those test stores represented the brand’s continued focus on technology-aided, human-powered solutions, and they made for a smooth transition to pick-up only solutions across China in the fourth quarter of 2019 and throughout the world after that.

What investments are you making today to test your best technology-aided, human-powered options?

Next week, I will be starting a new series titled Stronger Through Adversity. I’m basing that series on my upcoming McGraw-Hill book of the same name. Until then, I would love to talk about how you are testing customer experience improvements in your business. I might share how some of my clients are doing the same. Let’s talk.

Please reach out to me here.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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