Employees’ brand co-creation: The case of Starbucks and Nespresso

By Anaëlle DANICAN

Customers supposedly know that Starbucks or Nespresso products have a really good quality. Because these companies, more than just selling a product, are also selling a service, this service needs to be as qualitative as the product to match the brand’s high standards.

In Starbucks coffee shops, as well as in Nespresso boutiques, employees are the first, and also the last touchpoint that customers encounter when experiencing the purchase of the coffees. Thus, this encounter between employees and customers is the moment where promises are kept or broken. This moment is so-called the “moment of truth”, by Richard Normann 1.

In this “moment of truth”, employees are representing the quality of these branded services. The interactions with the employees will have a great impact on the customer appreciation of the service at the end, impacting also the potential customer’s loyalty to the brands.

Thus, these companies invest a lot in their employees’ training and try to create a corporate culture. It is important for the employees to have the right behavior to replicate the company’s culture and values, or at least how the company wants to be perceived.


(Extracted from unplash.com)

At Starbucks, for instance, during the first days of training, employees are taught that everyone should be welcomed at Starbucks, that discrimination is not allowed. Wherever the employee is at, the focus should be on the client and the employee has to do something, anything, to show the customer that he or she has been noticed. Employees at Starbucks are not just coffee makers, they are called “baristas”. Consequently, this conveys an expertise and a level of quality that is thus expected from the clients.

In the same way, at Nespresso boutiques, sellers are called “coffee specialists”. They are supposed to provide customers with coffee guidance. The goal of these coffee specialists is to maintain a strong relationship with customers by understanding and outpacing their expectations.


By putting employees at the front-stage of their businesses, Starbucks and Nespresso use them to reflect the image of the brand to the customers. Thus, a good or bad customer experience could be detrimental to the brand image or the branded service reputation.

For instance, the Saudi Arabia Starbucks scandal, forbidding the coffee shops access to women, contrary to the image that Starbuck is opened to everyone,  has brought massive critics on social media and to a boycott of Starbucks by lots of female customers, with the use of the hashtag #boycottstarbucks on Twitter 2.

Likewise, the Starbucks brand, advocating to be a place of social interaction, and striving against racial discrimination, has been the place of a racial injustice for two of its customers in one of their Philadelphia coffee shops, this late April 2018. Indeed, two young black men have been unfairly arrested while they were waiting for a friend.

(Seen on Youtube, Guardian News,  April 15th, 2018)

The fact that employees did not do anything to impede these events had consequently a huge impact on public opinion.



1 https://www.mcorpcx.com/articles/customer-touchpoints-vs-moments-of-truth

2 http://www.lefigaro.fr/conso/2016/02/08/05007-20160208ARTFIG00265-starbucks-menace-de-boycott-apres-l-affaire-du-cafe-interdit-aux-femmes-a-riyad.php





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