Last week, Starbucks and Spotify announced a partnership that will see the popular music streaming service integrated into Starbucks' 7,000 stores and its 10 million member strong loyalty program, My Starbucks Rewards.

As part of the deal, Starbucks' 150,000 employees will be given a free Spotify Premium subscription.

But it doesn't end there: in an effort to redefine the in-store experience, Starbucks is going to be allowing its employees to influence the playlists that determine what music is played in its locations. In other words, baristas will now also play the role of DJ.

Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz explained: 

For over 40 years, music has played a vital role in Starbucks Third Place experience – inspiring our partners and customers in unexpected ways that have helped to shape the global pop culture. Throughout its history, Starbucks has worked closely with the music industry, offering a variety of artists a platform for their work.

By connecting Spotify’s world-class streaming platform into our world-class store and digital ecosystem, we are reinventing the way our millions of global customers discover music.

According to Starbucks, this first phase of its Spotify relationship is just the beginning of an effort to create a "first-of-its-kind music ecosystem."

Employee harmony

While many companies struggle to empower their employees, Starbucks' Spotify initiative is just the latest example of how willing the coffee chain is to give its employees the ability to shape the in-store customer experience.

Recently, Starbucks asked its baristas to engage customers in conversations about race in America.

The Race Together campaign was met with significant criticism, but even though the company eventually scaled back its effort in response to the criticism, Starbucks reiterated its commitment to promoting a conversation about race and indicated that it would continue to look for ways to engage customers on the topic. 

Letting baristas choose the is probably going to be less controversial than Race Together, but it's certainly not without some risk. Opportunity, however, rarely comes without risk.

With customer experience being so crucial to the success of brands today, Starbucks' Spotify partnership raises an important question for brands: if you can't trust your employees to influence the customer experience in a meaningful ways, can you really rely on them to deliver a great customer experience at all?

Patricio Robles

Published 29 May, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (1)

Parry Malm

Parry Malm, CEO at Phrasee Ltd.

Interesting stuff. But have you considered the unintended consequences? For example: what if the baristas are Nickleback fans? Ain't no frappachino worth that.

almost 3 years ago

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