• Marketing & Customer Lifecycle

How Starbucks Does Training To Create An Unforgettable Customer Experience

Starbucks has built an empire on more than just a cup of coffee.

A global brand with more than 28,000 stores in 76 countries, Starbucks serves more than 5 million customers a day an unforgettable experience, along with their lattes of course. From clever seasonal drinks to a cozy atmosphere with free wi-fi, it’s clear that the company has found the right formula to attract customers to their stores again and again.

Starbucks’ seamless omnichannel efforts across social media, their mobile app, and within the stores themselves can be credited for much of their success building a massive and loyal customer base, but the real heroes will always be the company’s front-line employees — exceptionally well-trained baristas, or “partners,” who embody the Starbucks culture and make each of those customer experiences personal and memorable.

A master of arming its partners with the training and knowledge they need to not only prepare any drink order a customer can dream up (there are more than 87,000 possible drink combinations) but also how to respond positively in difficult situations, Starbucks invests heavily in training its front-line employees to create exceptional experiences that embody the corporate culture, even going as far to close all of its stores to train employees.

How do they develop such skilled employees across so many locations?

L&D leaders at Starbucks have created a new hire training program that utilizes the 70/20/10 approach. This means that 70 percent of partner training happens through on-the-job experience, 20 percent of training is acquired from feedback and mentorship from coaches, and 10 percent is learned through online e-learning modules.

New employees get their initial training from their store manager, as well as dedicated trainers responsible for teaching the Starbucks Experience classes which cover the company history, its legacy of social responsibility, and its culture. The Starbucks Experience is typically taught to groups of new hires at regional training centers, or in-store in more remote markets. Each store also has a learning coach — another partner who has shown a passion for training and teaching — who guides new hires through the Barista Basics hands-on training program.

It’s a system that works — but could it be even better?

What truly sets brands up for success in the service industry is the consistency of the customer experience throughout hundreds or even thousands of store locations. And the multilevel approach to employee training that Starbucks and many other retailers use is not without its disadvantages.

As everyone remembers from those childhood games of “Telephone,” communicating anything down the chain through multiple people has the potential to get distorted through each communication, leading to inconsistency in training from region to region and store to store. The process of training the trainers, who then train the managers, who then train the employees, who then train their peers introduces a great deal of unconscious bias into the training. It can even mean that a new employee gets training that is flat out wrong in some cases.

What Could Make Starbucks’ Training Even Better?

One upgrade to its current training process for front-line employees could make Starbucks’ training not only more consistent across all of its store locations but also more efficient and cost-effective: supporting instructor-led training and social learning with video.

Related Reading: Make Onboarding Hourly & Seasonal Employees Easier


A video platform gives L&D leaders the right set of tools to improve learning and the sharing of knowledge across stores. Here’s how:

On-demand instructor-led training that’s the same every time.

A video platform enables trainers to record one training class and then share it securely for any employee to view on-demand in an interactive multi-media player that gives them the same in-class experience. Not only does this require less of an investment in travel and central training facilities, but it also ensures that every employee at every store is trained consistently.

Enable social learning between stores.

With mobile apps designed for simple on-the-go recording, a video platform can enable employees at any location to share useful tips with every other store location. Whether it’s a simple cleaning hack or simply celebrating an interaction that made a customer’s day, managers, supervisors, and baristas can all film a short video with their smartphone and upload it to a searchable central video library for anyone to find — just like they would on social media.

14 Opportunities to Support and Scale Employee Training with Video


Learn more about how to use video to solve some of today’s most common training challenges, such as improving the quality, speed, and effectiveness of training while lowering training costs, in our latest white paper: 14 Ways to Use Video for Formal and Informal Learning.

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