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While the coffee giant has recently launched an initiative to improve customer service and better support in-store staff, many baristas say that Starbucks has refused to address underlying issues. They say that they’re more strained than ever due to an uptick in orders coming from the coffee giant’s mobile app and drive-thru, as well as an ever-changing menu of hard-to-make drinks.
Business Insider spoke with a dozen current and former Starbucks workers under the condition of anonymity in an attempt to get to the bottom of what in-store employees think Starbucks needs to fix. Starbucks says they are talking with partners, the company’s term for retail employees, to improve work conditions.
“Over the years, one of the strengths of our business has continued to be the connection we have with our partners,” a Starbucks spokesperson told Business Insider. “We know we are not perfect, but we are regularly engaged in discussions with the over 160,000 partners who wear the green apron in the U.S and continuously work to make their experience even better and more valuable. We know when we exceed the expectations of our people, they — in turn — exceed the expectations of our customers. To us, every voice matters.”
Here’s what Starbucks workers believe the company needs to fix, in their own words.
“It’s frowned upon if I stop to have a conversation with a regular.”
“They’d rather us be machines. They are, whether they like it or not, a fast food chain with lousy food that I am required to push on people.
When I started in 2010, we had partners who had been there for 8+ years. The customers were like family. We had seen their children grow. Now it’s frowned upon if I stop to have a conversation with a regular I haven’t seen in a while. …
It has kept me alive, to be perfectly honest, to know that so many people have been touched by conversations with me. And it has sapped just about every last ounce of my energy to know that I am now a hindrance to the [S]tarbucks (corporate America) agenda.” – Current Starbucks employee of seven years
(“I think a key differentiator for Starbucks is that emotional connection our partners have to what we stand for, and the fact that we are in the business of human connection,” CEO Kevin Johnson told Business Insider in an interview in March.)
“We’re running around like crazy.”
“I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that we’re the most important part of the company… I almost wish they would read that same letter they read to us, to the board, so they could know why they need to change the pay scale. If we’re the most important part of the company, and our connection is that important, [they shouldn’t be] paying as little as they can get away with paying. …
“Managers say… we need to do a better job at connecting. Obviously, we’re not connecting because we have mobile here, and we have drive through here, and we’re running around like crazy.” – Current Starbucks employee of more than five years working in Florida
(Starbucks has said that the company is working to provide better solutions for mobile ordering, and that mobile should not prevent workers from establishing an “emotional connection” with customers.)
“It’s a cult that pays $9 per hour.”
Dan R. Krauss/Getty Images
“At first, you watch all these videos about how wonderfully you’re treated and all the great benefits, your manager will tell…