Death of the Third Place

Ventured into my first Starbucks since March. The parking lot was empty, signs on the floor for social distancing, but no customers to distance from. Two baristas behind the counter mentally wrestled with who was to take my order. Waiting, I looked around at the cordoned seating. Is this the death of the Third Place?

Most companies have managed to return to some threshold of spaced out (space between people) operations. Products are moving, services provided. But, what of the customer experience.

Starbucks built their business on the notion of the Third Place and caffeine. I am certain they could have been more efficient had they applied six sigma principles to the order taking and coffee preparation, but what would be the point? Starbucks was all about the Third Place between home and the office where time was NOT of the essence.

What has changed about your customer experience? “Yes, you can come to our office, but please text us when you arrive. Remain in your vehicle until we confirm by text that we are ready for you.”

What happens to the Third Place in your business model?

3 thoughts on “Death of the Third Place

  1. Jeff Stern

    I suppose the Third Place is in the perspective and the timing. If it is evident that the effort is minimal and begrudging, it is nonexistent. If you and your staff are truly sincere and build a new process that is inviting in a safe, social distant way, it will be recognized and appreciated by most. In your example, if the mgr had thought things through and added a greeter that welcomed and ushered guests through the process, you would have felt more comfortable. I have seen this in different practices in the supermarkets in my area, those that have someone guiding folks through the checkouts lines have a much better feel.

    Side note: as a MBB, let me say that if the applied a customer experience facet of six sigma, they may have resolved things before you got there! :_)

  2. Tom Foster Post author

    Hi, Jeff,
    Please don’t misunderstand today’s post for complaining.  It is a call to action to re-think not only how we re-engineer our product and service delivery, but to rethink the customer experience.  Starbucks built their market cap based on something which is under assault.  Kevin Johnson is a big boy, he can figure it out, but the rest of us better pay attention as well.


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