If they were going to complain about something, you would think Starbucks customers might complain about paying $5 for a cup of coffee. Nope. They love that. Want to get them all in a lather, though? Make them wait in line. When “in a hurry” coffee customers are stuck waiting for their caffeine fix, they can get downright testy. And they have their phones right there in their hands to tell the world all about it.
After a lengthy and massive social media tirade over the state of the wait at Starbucks from coast to coast, the company made a few internal changes. The wait shifted from the front of the line, the cash register, to the next step in the process, the pickup line.
Customers are still aggravated. The company is blaming the wait shift on new technology. Starbucks launched a mobile order and pay app back in 2015, hoping that the easier ordering process would keep the line moving and make the customer experience a smoother transition.
Unfortunately, while many customers took advantage of the ordering convenience, the company didn’t beef up its equipment or the number of baristas to meet the scaled demand. Behind the counter, baristas were making like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory, getting more overwhelmed with each passing order.
That, in turn, is hurting sales. Customers who did not order online and are thus not invested, come in, see the long line and the confused, frustrated, and overworked baristas … and they head right out the door.
CNN reported the Starbucks COO Kevin Johnson brought the concerns to analysts recently, saying, “This congestion resulted in some number of customers who either entered the store or considered visiting a Starbucks store and then did not complete a transaction…”
Basically, they stuck their head in the door, looked around, and left. CNN reports that “congestion” was the theme of the call as if Starbucks had a winter cold. What it does have is an increasing number of vocal fans who are not happy with the wait as well as others who are simply making other plans to fill their coffee cup.
With falling sales, came falling share prices and frustrated investors. Executive leadership might be delighted to have “too much demand,” but the frustration customers are feeling opens the door wider for the competition. Existing competitors like Dunkin’ Donuts or even Panera Bread could peel off some typical Starbucks customers, and other local coffee joints could find a place to get a foothold on a market that is saturated with Starbucks leaving little opportunity to gain ground.