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article imageStarbucks Allowing Customers To Pitch Ideas For Company Changes

By malan     Apr 8, 2008 in Business
Starbucks has launched a new website that allows customers to pitch ideas that on how the company can improve. Popular or creative ideas are then pitched to Starbucks executives.
The site is part corporate blog and part online social network. Users can post ideas they have about changes the coffee chain can make to improve their business and fellow users get to vote on the best ideas and elaborate on ideas via commenting. Popular and smart ideas that make the grade will actually be presented to Starbucks brass in corporate boardrooms.
Here's how the site explains itself on it's homepage
You know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks. So tell us. What’s your Starbucks Idea? Revolutionary or simple—we want to hear it. Share your ideas, tell us what you think of other people’s ideas and join the discussion. We’re here, and we’re ready to make ideas happen. Let’s get started.
Users submit ideas that go to a team of "Idea Partners" who read 100% of the ideas and comments. Ideas are also posted live to the website and are voted on by readers. Each vote gives an idea 10 points. Idea Partners take a combination of the most innovative and popular ideas and present them to key decision makers at Starbucks who decide on whether or not to put the ideas to work within the company.
Ideas that are deemed "popular" and make it into the Popular Ideas section of the site will always be considered but even unpopular ideas that don't attract attention on the site can be picked up by an Idea Partner and still make into a corporate boardroom.
Some ideas that are already being put into action include:
Birthday Brew (over 34,000 points)
How about a free drink on your birthday?
Stop Trashing Empty Cards
(22,000+ points)
We don't need any more plastic in the trash. Rather than suggesting trashing an empty Starbucks card, give people a 25 cent credit...for refilling it. To make it affordable, how about....
Gluten Free (3700 points)
A gluten-free food product would be great!
Prepackaged gluten free cookies or bars or pastries would provide a longer shelf-life and would prevent "cross contamination" from other products.
Lower Your Prices (10,480 points)
Instead of spending mucho dinero on advertising, just lower the prices a little. Old customers will return, new customers who are frightened by everyone who talks about "$5.00 for a cup of coffee!?!" will be lured in, and existing customers will feel 'special'.
Yahoo reports that Four dozen Starbucks employees monitor MyStarbucksIdea, each putting in about eight hours a week.
Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of strategic services for the market research firm Nielsen Online said that few companies have gone after customer feedback like this.
"The ultimate form of dignity to the consumer is to ask for their opinion," Blackshaw said.
This new forum for ideas, comments and suggestions could totally replace the older model of focus groups where companies bring in a group of people off the street and watch from behind two way mirrors as they answer questions about their brand.
"Is it better to listen to tens of thousands of customers vote on ideas, discuss them and participate with them over a period of a couple months, or get 10 customers in a room, feed them sandwiches and listen to them behind smoked glass?" said Bob Pearson, Dell's vice president of communities and conversations.
It appears Starbucks has made a great move here. Not only does the website let consumers know that they are serious about our thoughts, ideas and opinions, they are also allowing anyone in the world to pitch an idea that could possibly become a part of the store's future.
Even in the current online overflow of social networking sites and Digg-style voting, I think this is a pretty cool idea. Starbucks is looking better already.
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