Barista or Bangalorean? Time to source shared services (and outsourcing) talent at Starbucks?

By January 8, 2013April 6th, 2022Archive

Barista or Bangalorean?  Time to source shared services (and outsourcing) talent at Starbucks?

Recently I had the privilege of chairing The Conference Board’s vaunted annual Shared Services Conference. Since I’ve always had trouble sitting still, and chairing a conference means listening intently in every session, I was blown away when Paul Nicolaisen, VP Shared Services of Becton-Dickinson, came out with one of those pearls of wisdom which I wish I’d thought of.

In Paul’s view, customer service is so critical to the success of shared services delivery, that companies should consider trolling for talent amongst the hoards of highly educated, smiling folk who make a mean cappuccino. So I looked up Starbucks’ barista job description to see whether Paul’s on to something.

His comment brings to mind something that I heard last year at a conference—“you think our name is shared service but our middle name is bad.” Bad shared service…and why is that? Possibly the retained and embedded teams are expecting more than a readable scan and a correct posting.

But when you troll through the job descriptions for a range of shared services and outsourcing associate positions, as I did this past weekend, I found little in the way of description about the actual responsibilities. Sure, “good communication skills” featured prominently on the customer services JDs, but almost none of the text dealt with the tasks involved in delivering a good customer experience.

Although I’m not a fan of Starbucks coffee, I think they’ve done a marvelous job in ensuring that the customer experience is pleasant, predictable, and a big contributor to the salience of their brand the world over. So I looked at their barista job description, and what did I find?

  • Develops enthusiastically satisfied customers all of the time, including responding to customer needs by demonstrating a “Just Say Yes” behavior
  • Provides quality (beverages) consistently for all customers
  • Maintains quality (store) operations
  • Contributes to (store) profitability
  • Takes responsibility to learn all aspects of the (barista)position

Take out the words in parentheses and the expectations of baristas and service delivery personnel should be pretty much the same—delight the customer, deliver quality profitably, and shoulder responsibility for the mastery of tasks.

So this begs the question—what’s more important in the hiring process, the right customer service and quality DNA, or the right degree? Can you train baristas in the fine points of business processes, taking advantage of their ability to wow the customer? Or is process knowledge more important?

With the backdrop of a consistent groan of customer dissatisfaction from shared services and outsourcing, perhaps it’s time to change the talent paradigm. Troll the local Starbucks for talent, or at least call Howard Schultz and ask him how the company developed its customer approach. I suspect the shared services and outsourcing customer just might be happier for it.

Thanks to Paul for a brilliant idea.