Starbucks - The Butler

We’ve defined four different IT personality profiles: The Accountant, The Butler, The Nanny and the Agent. Each one varies based on how much focus they put on understanding the business and how important user satisfaction is to them. 

Great tasting coffee, at 4$ a cup

Starbucks achieved something that only few companies can dream of: they turned a commodity product (coffee) in a premium experience. No one would have thought possible to pay more than 4$ for a simple cup of coffee. Especially with the Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons and McDonald giving it away for often less than a dollar. And they achieved this not by selling coffee made from premium beans (in fact, Starbucks often rated lower than McDonald in taste test) but by selling an experience.

Service orientation

Starbucks has defined their entire offering around great customer service. You can wait in line int he morning and be served quickly and efficiently, come back in the afternoon to sit down and work at one of their table in a nice casual atmosphere and be greeted by a barista that is friendly and welcoming and finally go on a date in the evening with your spouse in a nice chill out atmosphere. All in the same establishment.

Starbucks achieves this through a relentless focus on employee training. Each Starbucks goes through very intensive training that not only includes the basics associated with coffee, but also include customer service training, managing their emotions and dealing with difficult situation.

Managers also spend a lot of their time reviewing employee performance and emphasize customer satisfaction on a daily basis. They provide positive reinforcement and feedback on a continuous basis.

Business orientation

Starbucks is reactive in nature. They are not about anticipating your every needs. Instead, they are simply there when you need them. They spend all their time preparing to make sure that when you do show up, the entire experience is a good as you would expect.

Why being a Butler works for Starbucks

Starbucks delivers a superior service to its customers, and these are willing to pay a premium for it. They've created an atmosphere where people are comfortable paying a premium to get a great service.

Being a Butler in IT

How does this apply to IT departments?

First,being a Butler is not about saying yes to everything. Starbucks doesn't offer donuts or five service meals. They have a menu and stick to it. They offer a fairly limited set of service that they deliver very well. Same goes in IT. Butlers don't have to say yes to every requests from users. They have a service catalog and standards and abide by it.

The second point to consider is that service is at the core of their offering. They adapt their service depending on the situation (quick service in the morning, personalized service after rush hour). Butlers tend to do the same thing. They adapt their service levels based on time of year (end of year crunch) for example.

Finally, Butlers serve through people. Yes the have the tools and processes needed to help, but they realize that it's the people that makes the difference. This is why they focus a lot of their time on training and actively managing employees on a daily basis. Butlers typically spend time listening to support calls and giving advice on how the call could have gone better.


  • Starbucks delivers great service through daily focus
  • Being a Butler doesn't mean saying Yes to everything
  • Butlers adapt their service based on circumstances


Posted on October 17, 2013 and filed under ISP3.