Becoming Your Customers’ Habit

“That’s a damn fine cup of coffee,” special agent Dale Cooper observes in an early episode of the 1990s TV drama Twin Peaks. This line became memorable because it is so contrary to experience. We typically do not consciously pass satisfaction judgments on a cup of coffee—which brings us to Starbucks.

Ask CEO Howard Schultz why customers pay an average of more than $3 for a cup of Starbucks’ coffee three times a week, and he will wax rhapsodic about the company’s relationship with coffee growers, its emotional connection to customers, and its bond with partners (employees). But Starbucks’ phenomenal success is arguably attributable to more mundane attributes.

The first factor in the company’s creation and domination ...

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