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Your company is only as good as your current morale

Company morale is something that I’ve always been very interested in.  The overall morale of a company immediately affects a clients overall experience.  The level of customer service your company provides is directly relative to your own morale as the leader of your company.  Weird statement?  What I mean is that if you’re wondering why your company struggles with providing great customer service, keep looking up the food chain till you hopefully don’t find a mirror.


I quite often psycho analyze coffee houses.  I’ll again use my favorite company as a case study:  Starbucks.

Only recently, the experience you have can be quite different from one Starbucks to another.  I’ll go through some of my regular locations:

Starbucks #42-Post Falls Idaho.  If I had to guess, I would bet that this store out-sells every other Starbucks in the Spokane/Coeur d Alene market.  The store manager is overly annoyingly happy.  Every employee is happy.  The coffee is fast and always fresh.  I once had a not so warm cup of coffee and asked for it to be warmed… they made a fresh pot for me, threw out the current pot, and gave me a free coupon for my next drink.  This store is always busy and absolutely destroys Thomas Hammer Coffee (Right next door with better access and better tasting coffee.)

Starbucks #43-Riverstone Center, Coeur d Alene, Idaho.  This store has a rude, not happy store manager, constant new employees, and the staff is rude.  This place has the best location BY-FAR out of any Starbucks in North Idaho, but I bet its sales suck compared to the Post Falls one.  Don’t expect a smile or any type of customer service at this one.  This place isn’t even worth getting the coffee anymore, it hasn’t tasted very good for months.

Starbucks #45-Ironwood, Coeur D Alene, Idaho.  Horrible location, but the staff is always friendly and nice.  The coffee always tastes good.

Starbucks #1-2nd and Division Spokane, WA.  I would assume this is the highest sales store just because of the extended hours and the drive-by traffic has to be 10 times any other stores.  This store is OK.  Not super friendly, but not rude by any means.  You can see that the store manager here is happy, but looks overworked and quite often you’ll see like 10+ people behind the counter and maybe they’re just all running around so much that they don’t have the time to be overly happy.  But there’s no real complaint about this store.  Most the time the coffee is good, but not every time.

Starbucks #35-506 N. Sullivan.  Always friendly people, always good coffee.

So what’s my point?  I’ve noticed more and more that the coffee itself isn’t consistently fresh, hot, or brewed the same at all the different Starbucks in our area.  This has and in my mind is the main reason you go to Starbucks.  You usually won’t have to worry about some 3 hour old coffee that is luke-warm or made weak.  This may not sound significant, but it really is.  Starbucks coffee has ALWAYS been consistent.  I always thought it was because they over-engineered the entire process to streamline it and make the experience always consistent.  Think about how much time and money they put into the entire process of you ordering coffee all the way to the point of handing it over the counter and yelling out exactly what they poured so you know if they made it just right.  (I get black coffee, so there’s not a lot to my order.)  The fact that some of the Starbucks in our area now pour seriously crappy coffee AND have bad attitudes in my mind means that no amount of engineering standards of service can overcome a crappy manager or a company owner that doesn’t create a good enough morale in his/her company.

The moods of the various Starbucks stores in our area vary drastically.  The Riverstone one by far the worst and the coffee there actually is bad compared to the other Starbucks.  The Post Falls one is the best.  Amazing how aligned employee moods and end products are isn’t it?

The mood of your company can only be as good as the top dog.  The big cheese, the head honcho running the place.  Somewhere in the Starbucks Eastern WA and Northern Idaho region the regional manager doesn’t care about all their stores.  There is a serious change lately that hasn’t ever been present in Starbucks in this area.  That regional manager should probably be replaced and then move your way down to the store managers until they get some better moods again at all their stores.

So how does this relate to your company?  First, as entrepreneurs, we don’t have the luxury of years of research to engineer processes to give your staff the best chance of making the clients happy.  You’re main hope is insanely great customer service.  Second, you CAN beat the big guys.  This is huge to think about.  If Starbucks can pour a crappy cup of coffee and have a rude store manager, ANYONE can beat the big guys on any given day.  No matter how big the organization and how many millions of dollars your competitor has spent engineering a process like Starbucks, if they have grumpy people, it can very quickly translate into a bad end product.  And lastly, have you taken a look in the mirror lately at how good your own morale has been?  Whether you want to admit it or not, the mood of your company is you.  The regional manager at Starbucks may have an excuse that she has crappy managers, but somewhere in their relationship, that regional manager didn’t motivate or create a good enough environment to keep that store manager happy.  I’ve felt the interaction some of our staff has been having with our clients start to slip.  Nothing drastic, but a slight slip.  The important thing is to realize this before you start pissing off your staff and clients.  So we’re making some changes in our organization, switching some things up a little, and you can never forget to maintain yourself personally.  If you’re in charge of a company, you have to make sure you’re personal life is in order to effectively manage the company to your fullest capabilities.  This is part of my own recent strategy by taking all my emails off my blackberry to try to have better separation between personal life and work life.  It all starts with you, the boss, so coming to work fresher will only make the experience your staff has more enjoyable, and then hopefully this will filter down to your clients having a more enjoyable experience with your company.

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