AhaApps Blog

Ouch…Starbucks’ defective cup…or broken Lean Management System?

Posted by Paige Tarchokov

Dec 17, 2015 8:00:00 AM

starbucks_copy.jpgLike many parents, my first morning stop is to drop the kids off at school. I then swing by Starbucks to pick up a Venti blonde coffee for my drive to work.

On Tuesday; however, my routine was rocked. Within five minutes of my morning coffee purchase, I picked up the coffee from the cup holder in my car and that’s when it completely collapsed — exploded is perhaps a better word — and showered me and my car's interior with hot coffee. My clothes and boots, the floor of the car, parts of the dash, the ashtray and cup holders were all soaked with coffee.

Assuming that Starbucks had received a sleeve of defective cups, I called the store to let them know - I felt they would want to know about the problem as it posed a definite safety hazard to customers. Imagine my surprise when the employee told me that the baristas have been complaining to the store's manager about this very issue, but were told to keep using the cups. I left a message requesting a call back from the manager - a return call that still has yet to come.

So I had my car cleaned, dropped my clothes at the dry cleaners, and polished my boots. At this point, I assumed the issue was limited to that store and manager, so the next day, I picked up another venti blonde from a different Starbucks en route to an appointment.

Two minutes into my drive, the cup collapses, as if it is disintegrating along the seam beginning near the top of the cup, again drenching me and my car with hot coffee.

I take pictures of the cup and pull into the Starbucks I am now near. I am still shaken by the experience when I walk through the door. The manager says, (at location #3),"It's the cup, isn't it? We keep telling them that they're defective.” She offers me a double-cupped cup of coffee, and asks me to please call the customer support center to let them know. I go through the same process of cleaning up the mess caused by the exploding cup.

I was able to almost catch the third one when it happened! Then I went to the company's website and called the customer support line. I explained that three cups of coffee have now cost me about $200 for car washes and dry cleaning. I requested that a senior leader call me. No call has come through as yet.

Now, here is where I become more concerned. You see, I am a Lean Management Coach. I have attended many Summits with Starbucks leaders, and always been impressed with their delivery of quality in both products and services (both as a peer, and as a customer). In fact, you could say I love Starbucks. I am amazed that I have been through three geographic locations and in four stores across the week that are having the same problem. The associates are all telling their direct leadership there is a problem, but they are being told to carry on.

In a Lean Management System the boundaries defining ownership over processes or responsibility for specific areas of the company must be redefined. The lines of communication must extend from the top levels of management through the store managers, down to the customers and vice versa. My issue should have traveled quickly and been stopped.

If you are managing a multi-million dollar business, a small business or a non-profit it is imperative to have visibility into problems when they occur, and to stop them or fix them before they reach their customers. Luckily, I wasn’t driving in traffic when these situations happened, but it could have been dangerous. This could be a big liability for Starbucks; which is why they have invested so heavily in their own system.

I spend my days working with clients to help them understand the customer outcomes they want to drive. Then we build the “where are we going,” or “North Star” vision, we understand where the business is and then create a plan to get there; while implementing this Lean Management System to ensure we know about the problems when they occur, and preferably before they impact customers, like in my personal story above.

Even the masters Toyota, and Starbucks have hiccups along the way. Time to turn back to the Lean Values, and for now, I am asking for double cups, lowering the chance of the defect affecting me again.


About the Author:
ProTec_Logo.png Paige Tarchokov is a Lean Process and Management System Consultant working with non-profit and for-profit companies.  Her approach is to understand the business and align leaders to the “North Star” mission, from the strategic level to having a view into how every activity in the organization links in. She has had many roles including senior leader with a Fortune 500 Company for 16 years.  She currently works with Lean and Six Sigma development with universities, small businesses and automotive collision companies.



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