Training | Starbucks caught in another service fail despite L&D

Starbucks caught in another service fail despite L&D

Starbucks has once again been embroiled in an HR furore after a worker based in an Oklahoma branch of the coffee chain served a police officer with a cup of coffee with the word ‘PIG’ printed on the label – CNN reported.

The case was raised against the employee when another customer pointed out the message written on the cup to Johnny O’Mara.  

“What irks me is the absolute and total disrespect for a police officer who, instead of being home with family and enjoying a meal and a football game, is patrolling his little town," O'Mara wrote in a Facebook post, where he shared a picture of a cup with the "PIG" label on it.

The company has since released a statement claiming that the incident was “absolutely unacceptable” and that it is “deeply sorry to the law enforcement officer who experienced this”.

Starbucks has also confirmed that the employee’s contract with the store has been terminated as a result of this incident.

"The Starbucks partner who wrote this offensive word on a cup used poor judgement and is no longer a partner after this violation of company policy," the statement read.

"This language is offensive to all law enforcement and is not representative of the deep appreciation we have for police officers who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe," a representative for the company wrote.

However, critics have highlighted that this isn’t the first time the chain has come into question over the actions of its staff. In September, the firm found itself embroiled in a row after an employee asked for a customer’s name but allegedly penned “Isis” on the coffee cup instead – The Guardian reported.

The news came despite previous company-wide discrimination training which was launched last year after a similar incident occurred. 

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Peeved customer Niquel Johnson told the Washington Post that he ordered his drink on one occasion like he always did using his Islamic name, Aziz, yet the anonymous employee reportedly served his latest set of drinks with the label “Isis” penned on the cup’s exterior.

At the time the article was written, Johnson was considering taking legal action against the coffee chain. He said that seeing “Isis” written on his drink made him “shocked and angry”. He added: “I felt it was discrimination.”

Additionally, in October this year, an altercation between an employee and a homeless customer made headlines for the way in which the situation was handled.

Despite the chain promising to "treat customers with respect and dignity,” footage of the event recorded by another customer sparked public outrage as the barista can be heard loudly arguing with other patrons attempting to defend the homeless man.

In the footage, one customer can be heard shouting: "let him finish the food and then he can leave” whilst another stated: "I hope everyone boycotts there very unsympathetic lot! This guy needs an apology and free meal for embarrassing him – we are all human! (sic)"

A Starbucks Spokesperson told The Sun at the time: "The interaction on video is not indicative of the environment we strive to create.

“We are looking into the circumstances surrounding this customer’s experience and will take appropriate action to ensure that our stores remain welcoming places for everyone.

“We want every customer to have a positive experience, and we apologise that we did not meet that expectation in this instance," the Spokesperson added.

What can Starbucks do to prevent these situations in future?

Despite implementing company-wide training, it is obvious that there are still problems regarding the way that staff treat customers. This may suggest that the provided training is insufficient and or simply not the right solution to the problem. Therefore, HR should consider all the options.

Making training sessions on interacting with the public more regular may help eliminate poor behaviour. If this is frequently communicated then staff will be continuously reminded to consider their behaviour.

Communicating corporate polices and educating employees on the penalties of this behaviour should help staff understand what is and isn’t tolerated.

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