Building a Community: Why Starbucks Gets Customer Service Right
How often do major businesses take the time to really listen to their customers? I mean—really listen. I’m not talking about a customer service rep having to deal with a disgruntled patron or two. That’s fairly common. I’m talking about having the initiative to reach out and actually heed the advice of the individuals directly responsible for the longevity of your brand—the customers. Well, guess what. Unbeknownst to many, Starbucks has been doing exactly that for about three years now!
Starbucks customers love to participate!
Back in early 2008, the brand that makes every twenty-something feel hipper just by setting foot inside the door launched its own microsite, My Starbucks Idea. The site had a simple agenda: to take suggestions and to generate discussion as to how the company should go about improving itself. Originally envisioned as a kind of customer outreach project, the site’s launch was regarded as little more than a thinly veiled PR effort—which is understandable, seeing as how such moves are relatively commonplace in big business. What naysayers probably didn’t count on, however, was the overwhelming sense of community that Starbucks loyalists brought to the site. Fast-forward to 2011: the site is still active, and offers categorized sections to which visitors can either submit their own suggestions or comment on the suggestions of others.
According to one article, “almost 98,000 ideas have been submitted [to the site], and 100 have been adopted. Among them: donating unsold pastries to local homeless shelters and food kitchens, giving baristas name badges, selling reusable sleeves, and bringing back Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.” Now that’s what I call customer service!
Starbucks loyalists out there (the ones who either contribute to the suggestion site or have contributed in the past) actually deserve a great deal of credit. Without their ongoing participation and loyalty to the brand, there wouldn’t have been thousands of thoughtful and viable suggestions submitted in the first place. In all sincerity, it’s a job well done, and in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I tip my hat to the many participants at MyStarbucksIdea.com…
...who will likely return to their usual tables, hide their expressions of self-satisfaction behind a Chuck Palahniuk novel, and wait for a friend to arrive and engage them in idle chitchat about how the Right-wing corporate agenda is furthering our country’s class divide. Just kidding!
To Starbucks, I have one thing to say: you got it right! It goes without saying that companies of all shapes and sizes should feel encouraged to bring similar efforts to the table. Keep up the good work. And please stop using those ridiculous Italian terms for drink sizes; it’s confusing and pretentious and doesn’t help your image.
Again, for those interested, My Starbucks Idea is still active and visitors are welcome to offer input. In fact, I’d recommend that anyone interested in marketing give it a quick look, if only to see exactly what effective customer engagement in the 21st century looks like.
Starbucks knows that customers want to be involved, and they’ve come up with an excellent way to obtain feedback and suggestions. How else can they engage their patrons? Can you think of any other customer service techniques that would benefit businesses, whether large or small?
*Image credits: here and here.