April 22nd, 2008

Listening to Customers

Last week I ordered a “large coffee” from Starbucks. It was an interesting experience for me: usually my order is very complicated. But, just as the new, massive ad campaign promised, I received a venti Pike’s Roast in the brand new Starbucks cup.

The best part about my order however was that my cup came with this little green tab in the sip hole. I actually commented to my co-workers about it: “this is brilliant! I am so tired of spilling coffee on myself and in my car.” As it turns out, this “splash stick” was the result of customer feedback. BusinessWeek this week reports that

“this is corporate democracy in action: At the month-old MyStarbucksIdea.com, customers can make suggestions, other customers can vote on and discuss them and Starbucks can see which ideas gain support. It’s key to Howard Schultz’s plan to reinvigorate his company, to which he returned as chief executive in January.”

Starbucks is not the first company to try this–the company is actually following the lead of Dell.  Both companies are using software that acts “like a live focus group that never closes.”  Customers want to feel like they are being heard, and this is a great way to do that.  Additionally, Starbucks is using “idea partners” to moderate the conversations and tell customers what things have already been tried or why things won’t work.  And the ideas that gain traction on the site, actually get implemented–like the splash stick.  Fantastic example of engaging in conversations with consumers.

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