Starbucks’ Open Sourced Customer Experience Idea

Updated: Jan 3

Written by: Larry Goodfellow


The Lull Fuelled Change

Have you ever wondered how a company like Starbucks got to be so good at customer experience? We have found that a key to great customer experience comes through active and engaged brand communities that are able to provide dialogue between the customer and business, which fuels innovation and change. This innovation can come in the form of a new product or service that was needed but perhaps overlooked by management. While many businesses are not using engaged brand communities, we believe the question is no longer why should a company use online communities, but rather when will they start using an online community? We looked at the mega coffee chain Starbucks, who has been leading the way in its use of online communities, and who has reaped the rewards of this technology. Although many see Starbucks as extremely successful, history has not always been cake flavoured latte for them, in fact, there was a time when their growth was in decline and they were having to close stores.


In an article on Practicenext.com they discuss how in 2008, Starbucks saw a 26% decline in global operating income and the company’s in-store sales growth figures were negative for the first time in their history. That year they had to close 900 stores and had to lay off hundreds of employees. The beginning of the financial crisis was hitting North America, Europe and Asia and the future was looking bleak for Starbucks. It was at this point they started a market research online community for its patrons, called My Starbucks Idea to access collective help and insight from their patrons.


The online research community worked like a “suggestion box” reminiscent of smaller establishments in the past. My Starbucks Idea acted as a central location for customers to share their thoughts, opinions and even complaints. The result was a resounding success. Since then, the community has grown to over 150,000 members worldwide and has resulted in over 277 innovations. The site provides serious customer engagement and continues to fuel new ideas. These innovations have included free Wi-Fi service in all Starbucks locations, digital payments which are used by over 3,000,000 users per week, and new products such as pumpkin spice flavoured coffee.


No matter what the size of your company, online research communities can help grow and develop your business. As we see in the case of Starbucks, there is no one better to help you design a stellar customer experience than your customers themselves.

If you would like to find out more about our online community software please contact us.


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