How to Grow Your Customer Connection Through Technology

In a Time magazine survey, people were forced to choose one item to take to work: their wallet, their lunch, or their mobile device. The result: 66 percent chose their mobile device over their lunch, and 44 percent chose their mobile device over their wallet. In the same study, 68 percent of adults report that they sleep with their mobile phone next to them, and 89 percent say that they couldn’t make it through a single day without using their mobile device.

This may not take you by surprise.  The tiny computers that we are rarely without have become central to our lives and our businesses.  In my book Leading the Starbucks Way I identify a principle I call Mobilize the Connection, as Starbucks has become a recognized leader in digital platforms, social media engagement, and innovation. For instance, Starbucks was selected by Forbes as one of the top 20 innovation companies.  The Starbucks Card mobile app even received the Wireless Application and Mobile Media (WAMM) award as Best Retail, Shopping and Commerce Application.  This week it just got better.  The much-anticipated update to the Starbucks mobile app is here…well, for iPhone users, that is.  (Android users, your upgrade is said to be slated for later in the year.)

Technology is powerful when you view it as a way to enhance the human connection rather than seeing it as inevitably leading to impersonalization.  Starbucks’ understanding of this is evident in the new digital tipping capabilities featured in the mobile app upgrade.  When the app is used as payment, patrons now have the opportunity to add a tip up to two hours after their purchase.  Suppose you’ve just enjoyed the best white chocolate mocha of your life and want to tip the fine barista responsible for such perfection.  Now this is possible from your phone – even if you are out of cash and perhaps have long ago left the store or drive-thru at which your purchase was made.  Customers celebrate the connection between themselves and the Starbucks partners that they interact with during their visits, resulting in an enviable level of brand loyalty.  Tipping in food service is an expression of that connection and gratitude.  Through the strategic use of technology this gesture moves beyond the antiquated tip jar into 2014.

Technology may be something that you should not view as being provided for just “users,” but instead should be seen as a tool for serving and connecting with your “people” and your “customers.”  Even better?  Use technology to connect your people WITH your customers.

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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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