The Great Engagement Disconnect

I had an experience at Starbucks this week that left me intrigued by the gap I see in major brands between employee engagement and customer engagement.

I am an extremely engaged Starbucks fan.

starbuckslocalstore To give you an idea of my engagement level: I’ve carried my Starbucks Gold card with pride since 2008, this site I keep that card on “auto reload” so that I don’t have to be bothered reloading it all the time. I have Starbucks city mugs from 11 different countries on display in my office. I am the proud Foursquare “Mayor” of my local Starbucks store. My Christmas tree is covered with a collection of 7-8 different Starbucks ornaments I’ve collected over the years… I’m highly engaged.

Starbucks has done a fantastic job of keeping me engaged. Through emails, information pills twitter responses, adiposity Foursquare ads, and “Gold card insider” emails, I am a loyal, caffeine addicted member of the Starbucks universe.

Last month I got a BIG insider tip about a new mug coming out. A Starbucks mug to top all other mugs. I was excited. I was engaged. The mug was coming out on a Monday morning and each store would only have a limited number of them. I marked my calendar for the day (still a few weeks out) and when the day came, I woke up early to get to my local Starbucks nice and early.

fousquarestarbucks As I arrived and logged into Foursquare (a location based social media app), there was a pop up that told me about the special mug that arrived today! New excitement filled my heart.

I walked in and eagerly looked for the mug, but didn’t see it. I would have expected a display, but decided to get in line and ask a friendly barista:
“Hi! I’m here for the ‘January mug’! Where are they?”

The barista looked back at me with a blank stare, “The January mug? What is that?”

Oh, maybe that isn’t the name I thought. I responded, “The mug that came out today. The mug that gives you free coffee for all of January. It was released this morning.”

She looked at her manager with the puzzled look and said, “Did we get new mugs in today?” The Starbucks manager replied, “We get stock in on Thursdays. What we have is out.”

I froze, disheartened. This was my chance. I didn’t have time to get to another Starbucks before going to work, and I knew they would sell out by lunch. These disengaged employees who clearly didn’t care to find the answer, succeeded in undoing the prior work of a great  marketing team.

Clearly the marketing team at Starbucks had done a fantastic job communicating this campaign through multiple channels.  However, the company dropped the ball on the customer experience by not communicating to their employees. The end result is still a disengaged fan. In order to engage your customers, your employees need to convey both knowledge and excitement about your campaigns.

How does a brand create brand advocates out of their employees and create fans of employees? What are your suggestions for creating super engaged employee for your company?