Starbucks gets the big idea


Have you seen Starbucks has gone outside their corporate walls for idea generation and thought. They’ve given their customers a chance to submit ideas to help improve the Starbucks brand and business. This isn’t anything new you say? You’ve had the ability to do this for years right?  You could submit ideas and leave comments through suggestion cards and customer surveys. Hold on, let’s take a closer look at what Starbucks has done with this site.

The My Starbucks idea site is really a community. Customers or interested persons leave their ideas where they are visible to everyone. Each idea is then voted on by the community and discussed. If Starbucks implements an idea from the suggestions they will post it on their blog named Ideas In Action.

What so ingenious about this and how is better than traditional surveys and comments cards?

Idea submission

To submit an idea you must be a registered user. Not to worry, the registration form only has 3 fields ( Username, email address, and password). So you won’t spend time writing out your name, complete address, and those dreadful demographic questions.

The process then allows you to pick a screen name for use with any posts you might make. To submit an idea you only need to fill in three boxes: the idea name, a description of the idea, and the category (from a selection box).  How simple is that? Don’t forget you can submit multiple ideas and keep coming back to the site.

Viewing ideas

Both registered and unregistered users can view idea submissions. Ideas are grouped by category, points, date for easy viewing. This creates a sense of community and understanding. It’s not something you’ll find with traditional customer response mechanisms where your survey is a one-off input.

Voting on and discussing ideas

Registered, users can then give each idea a thumbs up or thumbs down which will help determine the point score for the idea. The total points for an idea are shown by its name. In this way, Starbucks can get an idea of just how popular an idea is with its customers. Think about that. You can make your voice heard through voting for others comments even if you don’t submit any of your own ideas.

Registered users can also create discussions for each idea. This allows people to both further clarify the thought or to have a healthy debate on the merits of each idea and if they should be considered further. Again, it creates a sense of community and feeling that customers can contribute to shaping the future of the company. You can’t get this by dropping a white card into a wooden box or by filling out an online survey and never knowing if anyone reads it.

It comes with the territory

Perhaps the most impressive thing I saw on the site, was that the moderator allowed negative posts to stay on line. Starbucks reserves the right to moderate the site from profanity or inappropriate comments (as they should). But they do not delete posts which customers use to vent frustrations or to give criticism. This lets you know that this site is not just a marketing feel-good board. It’s a place where comments are welcome and viewed. Posters beware though. Since this is a community site, you may find that others don’t agree with your assessment.

My hats off to you Starbucks. You’ve got the big idea!