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Case Study: Starbucks – Destroying Customer Experience with one input box!

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

You read that right! I didn’t have to spend millions of dollars studying financial data worth several years and use all manners of deep insights to bring you this simple example of how to completely destroy your customers’ experience online. But wait, there is a bonus!

The Bonus

The input box I refer to, is on the COMPLAINT form. Sure, Starbucks would like to call it the “Customer Service” form or some variant, but, honestly, how many times do you go online to talk about your miscellaneous or even positive experience to your vendors? And even if you did, would being intolerably annoyed under happier circumstances be somehow more acceptable?

So yeah, I am there, staring at the web form, trying to complain about a really bad experience I had at a particular store and I cannot even submit the form! See the image below and I will explain why..


As you can see, Starbucks is very interested in knowing about your visit time to the store. Sure, that makes sense. Otherwise, it becomes hard to find out what shift you are writing about. Except, here are a few problems. All of us have now been trained like Pavlov’s dog to realize that if there is no red star next to an input box, we assume, that the information is not required, or if you fill it with something it shouldn’t matter.

You could still tell me, “Wait, they seem pretty serious about the box. They have a format suggestion and an example to boot. Why not just go with it?”. Which is what I did. Except, I typed in 05:00pm – yes, once again, like the proverbial dog, I am used to input boxes either understanding small variations and ignoring them or self correcting them? Well, this high and mighty form has no such provisions. It will simply refuse to submit your story of frustration without frustrating you more!

So there I was, gnashing my teeth, making sure I got the right spaces and capitalization just to submit the form!

The Analogy

Imagine walking up to a store manager to report an issue and he expects you to complain, speaking clearly with grammar and syntax intact, or he would refuse to listen to you. Yeah, how would that work out for you?

Did I tell you I was unhappy?

That is, I was at the page, to report I was unhappy with OTHER things Starbucks has been doing. Add this anal-retentive typing test, and I am definitely not at all happy with Starbucks. And this is precisely the point I am trying to get at. Customer Experience. User Experience. This stuff matters.

Treat the customer right, every single time!

I hope that for much less than a dissatisfying cup of coffee at Starbucks, you can learn from their example and stay away from such practices. Unless you are the IRS or the Passport Office or you manage the website for the input of nuclear weapon launch codes, I think you should un-clench, ease up on input formatting, and at least stop customers from becoming more and more frustrated with you. This can of course, be duplicated as a general principle in ALL your interactions with your customers.

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