Recently, Starbucks closed all of it’s locations on the same night (Feb. 26) to conduct employee training. It even made the evening news (must have been a slow news night). What were the results? I haven’t seen it in the store. I can often cause the barista’s to pause with my special order. (Special orders being the focus of their full page ad campaign in pricey newspapers that ran after the special training day.) So I was hoping for trained employees who would know exactly what I meant without an explanation. Not in Santa Monica, where I was at the time. Oh well, my dream continues.

PS My order is a small (I don’t use their names for the sizes) non-fat chai misto. FYI: it’s actually steamed milk with a chai tea bag.

So, while my hopes as a customer weren’t met (Like all customers I assumed they talked about me and my drink order so everyone would know what it is.) in ways I had expected…the training evening had other effects. Consider these two:

#1 They got great PR. You don’t see any other retail store closing to have a special rally session with customers, including their tough competitors McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts (at least here on the east coast). Of course, closing the store could upset regular evening customers, but probably a minimal concern. And the upside is getting on the evening news when your business isn’t growing like it used to–not a bad idea.

#2 The employee investment/engagement value is high on something like this. You can read some employee blogs online and see the direct impact. The employees liked seeing the video from the CEO and the training on customer care. You gotta love employees who are excited to see a company talk about caring for customers–those are the great kind of employees Starbucks attracts.

Also, point number two should not be underestimated, especially in a business that is directly providing customer experiences all the time. Re-energizing employees periodically is important. Not in a cheesy “once a year sales meeting” way, but in a real “we’re invested in you, you’re a real part of this company, your growth is important to us” kind of way.

Post your experiences at Starbucks below.