Starbucks announced this week it will be opening its first U.S. “signing store,” a store designed to uniquely serve the hearing impaired.
The coffee giant has long been known for their brand dedication, employee-centric culture and willingness to think outside the box. Opening a signing store in Washington, D.C., (their second deaf-friendly worldwide following a similar store in Malaysia) is the next in a series of positive Starbucks brand experiences.
Here are three things Starbucks got right with the signing store, and what financial institutions can learn from their example.
- Showing commitment to employees.
The idea for the deaf-friendly store actually came from Starbucks’ deaf partners (employees) themselves. Starbucks found these employees faced workplace limitations and often struggled to excel in the loud, fast-paced environment.
As Rina Siew, Starbucks corporate responsibility manager for Malaysia explained, “We needed to give them a platform where they could actually thrive, and where we as employers can provide a better partner experience for them.”
Far more than they wanted to reach new customers, Starbucks wanted to better serve its employees.
Is your financial institution actively dedicated to its employees like this? Are you listening to their concerns and needs, and responding accordingly?
- Creating brand ambassadors.
In building a deaf-friendly store, Starbucks is creating brand ambassadors within the organization who can uniquely communicate with a segment of the population outside the organization. While all signing store employees (hearing and deaf) will be fluent in American Sign Language, deaf employees will wear specific aprons with sign language symbols. These employees are reaching deaf customers where they are and welcoming them into the Starbucks culture.
But Starbucks isn’t just creating brand ambassadors within the organization. Members of the deaf community are also openly supporting the coffee giant.
Howard Roesnblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf said, “Starbucks has taken an innovated approach to incorporating Deaf Culture that will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for Deaf and hard of hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society.”
When was the last time an organization or philanthropic group in your community could say such things about your credit union or bank?
- Taking strategic, mission-driven action.
Starbucks’ mission statement reads, “To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” The company has consistently made an effort to emphasize the human aspect of the mission, going out of their way to participate in activist causes. In fact, one of their four value statements says, “Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.”
Starbucks’ decision to open a signing store in Washington, D.C., was strategic, yes, but it wasn’t driven by the bottom line. It was driven by a commitment to the company’s mission and values. Starbucks didn’t just leave their mission and values on the wall. They took steps to put them into action.
Is your financial institution willing to make strategic decisions like this to fully live the brand?
When it comes to credit unions and banks, you don’t have to be a Starbucks to show commitment to employees, create brand ambassadress or make mission-driven strategic decisions. You just need to live your brand.