Saqui Research

Starbucks & Name Tags: A Positive Move?

I love Starbucks Coffee…the coffee that is.  However, Starbucks Coffee the company, has always piqued my curiosity about the way it has done things especially around their customer service.

For example, Starbucks Coffee Company describes itself as “A place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home.

It is my belief that when a company puts something down in writing, as a company philosophy, there should be an all out effort to be consistent in that philosophy–from the big things to the little things.

Over the course of my frequent visits to my local Starbucks, I noticed the baristas never once asked me my name or made any attempt to see me as more than just a one-time customer.  You could chalk this up to bad customer service. I would label it bad customer service if Starbucks hasn’t made such a big deal about wanting to be this “third place” and the fact that the company has been held up as a model of customer service.

Hence, one of my never-ending curiosities about Starbucks has been the lack of name tags for the baristas (besides the obvious question about why they do not try to get to know their customers better).

According to one article on, the lack of name tags for the baristas of Starbucks may be changing.

Not everyone thinks this is a good move.

Commentators (which reportedly include current Starbucks baristas) on the blog Starbucks Gossip debate on the new move to name tags.  Some of the reasons against the name tags include safety, awkwardness of customers knowing their name, lack of uniformity in the tags, costs, and name tags mirroring more of a fast food image.  One commentator writes, “Names should be learned as a natural consequence of connecting with one another.

Agreed.  And I could certainly ask for their name.  However, when I invite guests into my home, I take on the burden of making them feel welcomed. Don’t you? And for a company that has built its brand around being the “third place” and a model of customer service, I would think the first connection attempt would come from the barista.

What do you think?  Will name tags for the baristas make a positive difference?

P.S. According to one article, Starbucks did more than a year of research to make this decision about name tags.  I would have gladly done this research for them in a quarter of the time. Mr. Schultz, let me give you a quote next time!


Did you like this? Share it:

Ursula Saqui is an academic and psychotherapist turned entrepreneur. Works with individuals and organizations that are willing, curious, and brave enough to intensely focus and work on their brand, customers, and competitive advantage. When she is not working, she is spending time with her family, reading, playing soccer, or eating steak. Connect with Ursula via , Twitter, LinkedIn, or on Facebook.
  1. Deborah Choma

    I agree wholeheartedly with the excellent points in your article, Ursula. In fact, Starbucks has come of age with respects to being a solid business. Founded in 1971, one would expect their soft skills to align with their Barista training programs. Not so!

    In today’s corporate and retail environments, social graces are slipping across the board. “A company of people who care about people” is the Starbucks’s mantra. We build businesses on relationships. Where is the value in parting with $6 for a specialty coffee if the basic soft skills are non-skills? For example, eye contact paired with a smile. Basic name introductions, learning customer preferences and good human relationships (the inner engine that runs – what people connect with),

    85 percent of future success depends on social skills, including the ability to put another at ease, with only 15 percent attributed to technical skills, according to recent studies conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Institute.

    Genuinely connecting to others ought to be a hallmark for anyone in business. I see the downward slide in Starbucks’s soft skills as a launch pad for specific training programs.

    Once again, thank you for sharing another splendid article, Ursula! 

    • Ursula Saqui

      Thanks for your thoughts Deborah! As you state, it is about the soft skills. It’s not really about the name tags. Name tags are always going to be just one way by which a connection can be made. There are plenty of other ways Starbucks baristas, or anyone, can make that connection. I wonder why they choose not to at my local Starbucks? Thanks for the research, which I love!

  2. Steve Dalton

    good point! They don’t ask a name, some aren’t even good at engaging or giving eye contact. It makes one think that Starbucks takes itself too serious.

    Just look at Family Express, a place where many of the staff and customers have become friends after daily visits, name tags work great!

    • Ursula Saqui

      I am so glad you brought up Family Express! They are friendly! Even though they don’t call me by name (yet), they still have that “I know you, I recognize you” look. Every time I go into Starbucks, it is like they are seeing me for the first time. It is very curious…