On April 12, 2018, a store manager at a Philadelphia Starbucks called the police on two men who were waiting for a meeting, but had not yet made a purchase. Some of what happened next was captured in a video that’s been viewed more than 11 million times. By the time police released details of the episode, #BoycottStarbucks was trending on Twitter.
Kevin Johnson, the CEO of Starbucks, later publicly apologized and vowed to “fix” the issue. By May 19, Starbucks adopted a new Third Place Policy, which comes from the urban sociologist Ray Oldenburge’s notion of “third places” as the spaces on neutral ground where people can gather and interact with one another.
“We want our stores to be the third place, a warm and welcoming environment where customers can gather and connect,” the coffee giant said in a press release. “Any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase.”
Not only does the Third Place Policy redefine what is and isn’t allowed in Starbucks stores, but incidents like the one above should prompt small and large businesses everywhere to reevaluate what it means to be a customer, whether that person appears in your brick-and-mortar location or if they are just visiting your website.
Evolution of the ‘customer’
Margaret J. King, director of The Center for Cultural Studies and Analysis, believes the term “customer” has begun to fade from its retail origins as a buyer of goods and services, which can be traced back to the 1400s. That’s, in part, because of a decline in brick-and-mortar shopping. For instance, 6,700 stores shuttered in 2017, according to Fung Global Retail and Technology, which is changing what customer service looks like.
“When customers are more than receivers of commodities, goods and services – when they don’t buy and go away but stay, pay and play – you have a snapshot of the economy of the 21st century,” King said.
The accessibility of communication between businesses and customers in the digital age has changed the dynamic between the two. It used to be that shoppers could only communicate with companies by visiting in person, writing a letter or calling customer support. Today, consumers can do all of that, plus use digital channels like email, live chat and social media. Regardless of the channel they are using, users expect to be known and served promptly.
Read more: https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10961-what-is-a-customer.html