Ideas Lunch Alumni Online Sharing: Elevating Customer Experience and Building Resilience for the Future


Life is like a decent cup of coffee – simple yet full of subtle complexities. The coffee giant Starbucks is a master of this philosophy by instilling their brand promise to ease into customers’ lifestyle and deliver exceptional services. 

On 27 August, BBA alumnus Samuel FUNG, Director of Marketing, Retail Lobby, and Digital Customer Experience at Starbucks Asia Pacific shared his success on elevating customer experience and building resilience at the HKUST Business School Ideas Lunch. The session was moderated by Professor June SHI Zijun from the Marketing Department.

Samuel oversees 14 markets across the Asia Pacific region. His adaptable and agile approach to branding and marketing made him Asia-Pacific's 50 most influential and purposeful marketers in the Power List 2020.

While maintaining core product offerings, “we also enable markets to execute local adaptations so as to resonate our products with local festive and cultural needs.” These resulted in unique concept stores like Bali Dewata Sanctuary store featuring traditional Balinese architecture and seed-to-cup journey in Indonesia and a nostalgic bing sutt (冰室)-inspired store in Hong Kong.

Starbucks coffee experience is delivered by 300,000+ baristas in over 32,000 locations globally. The consistent execution across different markets is the primary key to its success. Samuel explained that the Brand Promise rollout supports the organization to talk about the brand with a simple structure and a common knowledge, so that the partners would be able to uplift the customers every single moment in contact with the brand.

With the recent surge of online consumption and growing digital savvy consumers, Samuel also shared the enterprise plans for building up the digital ecosystem and capturing the growth opportunities. “We would like to fit into [customers’] life effortlessly and also let them feel it’s personalised for [them] as well.” Starbucks has accelerated the efforts to create contactless Starbucks experience through digital ordering and build on the strength of digital customer relationships and the convenience of Starbucks app.

Prior to working at Starbucks, Samuel worked in different professions across multiple industries. “Despite the differences in industry sectors, what matters most is your soft skills.” These included project management, business acumen, strategic thinking, change management, and leadership skills. 

Managing multiple markets for a global brand across Asia is certainly complex. Samuel described his leadership style as “situational” according to the context and environment. He believed in influencing without authority to ensure that brand standards are enforced effectively to execute on-brand decisions while allowing room to adapt to local consumer needs.

Stay connected with the HKUST Business School alumni circle, visit here for future alumni events.