Revisiting Starbucks and Square

  • April 3, 2013
  • Scott

As we know at BP3, rolling out process change across an organization the size of a Starbucks is no easy task. They have so many retail locations and registers and team members to train, it is a daunting task.

But when I saw the original Square-Starbucks announcement, I was pretty bullish on what the improvements to the payment process might be like:

So today I see Jack Dorsey has announced a new deal between Square and Starbucks.  If it lives up to expectations, this could help Starbucks bring back some of the personalization they used to have at their stores, without reintroducing the grease pens and markers.

Well, it hasn’t worked out that way – partly because Starbucks doesn’t really let you do the “pay with Square” option.  It hasn’t really bothered me too much – I just use the Passbook app and the Starbucks card to iOS Passbook app integration which works just fine (by integrating with an old school bar code scanner… how 1990’s!)

However, when I go to the local Houndstooth in Austin, TX, I use Square’s “Wallet” app and I just say “put it on Scott” and it works great (and they know who I am).  Why, it is almost like magic.

What does Splatf’s Dan Frommer have to say:

The article is high on drama, but Carr’s right: Starbucks and Square both pride themselves on their customer experience, and put a lot of work into them. (Fast Company itself just named Square the no. 3 “most innovative” company in the world, whatever that means.) So the fact that anyone’s having trouble using their systems must infuriate them.

Agreed. And yet, replacing all those dumb register terminals with something as smart as an iPad isn’t going to be cheap.  Likely a multi-year roll-out would be required.

Looks like Dan does the same thing I do:

I haven’t tried to “pay with Square” at Starbucks yet, but I’ve paid with my iPhone Passbook Starbucks card every time for months now, and it’s always worked great. The staff has always known what to do with it and the payment has always gone through. Perhaps because it’s the same barcode as the Starbucks app and not a separate payment type like the Square code? As the article notes, Starbucks did have to calibrate its barcode readers to handle Square’s QR code, which is a different format than Starbucks uses.

Let’s hope they figure out how to fully incorporate the Square experience into Starbucks – or how to customize a Starbucks experience that leverages the ideas expressed in Square.  This would be a fantastic process improvement project to work on – where the main goal is better customer experience.  (We’re seeing more and more of these, by the way)



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