How To Gain Competitive Advantage Through Brazen Customer Experience: 4 Tips From Starbucks

You are likely in an industry where competition is fierce and customer retention is critical. Since globalization has led to products and services that are increasingly similar, a well-crafted and consistently executed customer experience is a powerful competitive differentiator.

Here are four tips for designing and delivering differentiated customer experiences courtesy of my work with and books about Starbucks.

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1) Create an Emotional Connection

The success of Starbucks is not only due to the quality of its products but also the result of the emotional connection team members create with customers. During the company’s meteoric rise, Starbucks partners distinctively invested time and effort getting to know their customers. They learned their regular customer’s drink orders, names, and even the names of family members. These connections fueled repeat business & referrals.

2) Co-Create the Experience

To stand out from the competition, brands like Starbucks build their products and experiences based on customer input and preferences. At the product level, it is estimated that customer preferences can lead to over 87,000 different drink options. Similarly, Starbucks refined the coffeehouse experience by deploying a crowdsourcing website called “Starbucks Ideas.” On that site, customers could share their innovative ideas and loyal customers could vote on which ideas Starbucks should pursue.

3) Think Beyond Products, Services & Profits

From the company’s onset, Starbucks’ leaders have always emphasized the importance of pursuing a transcendent mission. In 2023, Starbucks’ mission was refined to read



4) Inspire Greatness

The success of most brands is highly correlated with the “collective belief” of team members. Optimistically

and passionately help your team believe (and realize the belief) that you can consistently deliver an experience that sets you apart from the competition while also elevating the lives of those you serve.

Kerry Bodine, fellow customer experience designer and co-author of Outside In, sums up the importance of cust

omer experience design and delivery by noting:

“Exceptional customer experiences are the only sustainable platform for competitive differentiation.”

Related: Remember and Amaze: Colossal and Affirming Lessons From a Starbucks Barista