The cliche, “the customer is always right” can be just that – a cliche. It can be considered trite and overused and not to adhere to because it’s old. Yet, Starbucks, one of the most recognized coffee shop brands in the world, has adopted it as a business model. Customers are so right that, if you take your drink back they’ll remake it. So it wasn’t surprising when Starbucks turned to the internet and crowdsourcing to help grow their business five years ago with the launch of “My Starbucks Idea.”
My Starbucks Idea was an innovative experiment in “the customer is always right.” It was a branded website where customers and employees can share their ideas for the company to try. Ideas are submitted and voted on through a curated site run by Force.com. The first idea implemented? Splash sticks (those little green stoppers that keep the coffee from spilling out). Other ideas include the mobile app to pay (there are now over 3 million mobile transactions per week at Starbucks stores), cake pop treats (5.8 million sold per year), and new beverage ideas like the skinny versions of drinks or the new Hazelnut Macchiato.
It’s not a new idea, getting customer feedback, but Starbucks used the power of social media and the internet to harness their large customer base to work for them. In the five years that it’s been up My Starbucks Idea has 150,000 customer ideas. Once submitted, ideas are voted on by the community. It is this powerful information that has helped Starbucks continue to innovate and stay relevant.
Other businesses can engage their customers in similar ways. Remember that social media should be a conversation. Listening is a big part of social media marketing and, sadly, not every business knows how to engage their customers. You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to engage your audience. If you’re a restaurant do you read the reviews on Yelp, Google and other places? Do you ask questions on Facebook? Do you put customer ideas into practice? If you do, do you celebrate it? Take a page from My Starbucks Idea and really mine your customers for their ideas. We’re better together.