Part 5 of the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project with Jay Ehret. Read Jay’s latest post chronicling his recent trip to Brazil and the contrast between Brazilian coffee houses and Starbucks (what a contrast!). Obrigada, Jay! (Thank you, in Portuguese.)
Shortly after my last Starbucks update, Starbucks announced “…new strategic initiatives to transform and innovate the customer experience” at their shareholder meeting. For a quick run-down of those ideas, see Jay Ehret’s post on the announcement. For a more in-depth analysis of those ideas, and whether they will really impact the customer, see John Moore’s post.
The most controversial initiative is Starbucks foray into the world of social media: MyStarbucksIdea. Launched about 10 days ago, it is a website where customers can go to share ideas for improving Starbucks, vote on ideas from other customers, and then hear back from Starbucks on which ideas they are considering and/or taking on board. There are a group of Starbucks partners (employees) who are responding to and interacting with these ideas on the site.
Is It the Right Thing?
From reading several blog posts on this subject since the launch of MyStarbucksIdea, many bloggers seem to feel this is merely a PR move for Starbucks. To get a feel for who is griping about it and who likes it, see the AdAge article citing references to MyStarbucksIdea from both camps. Mack Collier of The Viral Garden wrote a great post comparing MyStarbucksIdeas to Dell’s IdeaStorm. Mack writes,
I agree, Mack! Dell’s community has been very good at getting their customers to engage and present new lines of thinking. Dell has been very good at listening to them and responding quickly.
We can spend a lot of time debating whether this was a good idea for Starbucks or whether they went about it the right way. It may even have been better for them to engage with customers by doing more listening and commenting through other mechanisms that already exist. Mack goes on to say something similar in his next post on the subject of Starbucks and customer engagement:
“What would be more effective for Starbucks, to start the MyStarbucksIdea where 48 Starbucks employees attempt to engage Starbucks customers via the site, or to have those same 48 employees attempt to engage SBUX customers OFF the site, a la Richard Binhammer? I would lean toward having 48 employees reach out to customers online in THEIR space if those 48 did even half as well in engaging and responding to customers as Richard does.”
What is the Goal?
Perhaps it depends on the goal of this new online community for Starbucks. Lately, I have been reading my advance copy of Charlene Li and Josh Bernhoff’s fabulous new book Groundswell(review coming soon here on Customers Rock!), and in it they discuss five goals for companies that want to engage with customers via social media: listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing. I have assumed Starbucks created MyStarbucksIdea for some combination of listening to customers as well as for co-creating (embracing in Groundswell terminology) with customers.
Starbucks can easily listen in to customer conversations many places online (and offline) to understand what customers want. They can also engage in many places online to continue a conversation. By creating the MyStarbucksIdea site, Starbucks sets the expectation that they want to enable a conversation, join in, and connect customers with each other. Charlene makes a suggestion on her blog that Starbucks should better close the loop on these interactions. She says,
“Close the loop, and you’ve not only got me hooked, but I’ll walk the extra block in NYC or drive the extra mile to go to you rather than another coffee house.”
When I started this “Re-experiencing Starbucks” project with Jay Ehret, I sent feedback to Starbucks via their website, some good and some not. They responded to the good but ignored the rest. Hopefully on “their turf”, they will be open to all ideas and close the loop on the feedback they are receiving.
Customers are being very active on the site, adding quite a few ideas and doing a lot of voting on others. The main ideas on the site right now are dominated with requests for free “loyalty” drinks as well as free WiFi. These are consistent with some of the pain points expressed by customersin a recent global survey, highlighted by Meikah over at Customer Relations, where price was the number one pain point. Perhaps once Starbucks gets past these long-desired customer concerns, the conversation will blossom into other areas as yet unexplored.
What do you think?
Go check out the site and let me know what you think. Is this site a good way for Starbucks to keep an ear open to customer requests? Will it be effective for co-creating with customers? Do you think it will succeed?
Starbucks – are you listening?
Related Customers Rock! posts in the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project series: