Saturday, March 22, 2008

I still want to know why male coffee worker's aren't called "baristos." Perhaps I'll make that suggestion.

Over the last few days, a lot of stuff about the new Starbucks social network has passed through my feeds.

The first item I saw was from Shel Holtz, who put the initiative into perspective:

The Dell IdeaStorm was a revolutionary concept in customer relations. The idea was simple: Take the concept of Digg, tweak it a bit here and there, and unleash it so customers and employees can submit ideas. Anyone can then comment on any idea and vote to either promote or demote it. Those that rose to the top are then moved into action....

The IdeaStorm concept is so good I wondered when we would see other companies adopt it. That question was answered yesterday when Starbucks unveiled its version, a nearly identical site called ”My Starbucks Idea.”

Brand Autopsy also looked back, while placing this initiative into a larger context:

At its 2008 Shareholders Meeting, Starbucks announced six initiatives designed to: (a) improve the current state of its U.S. business, (b) reignite the emotional connection with customers, and (c) invest for long-term success.

The six initiatives are:
1 | New Espresso Machines
2 | Ethically-Sourced Coffees
3 | A Social Media Strategy
4 | A Customer Rewards Program
5 | Improved Brewed Coffee
6 | Acquisition of the Clover Brewing machine...

3 | Social Media Strategy

Starbucks is following the lead of companies like Dell by introducing a website where customers can submit their ideas on how Starbucks can improve its business. is the company’s first meaningful foray into social media. Howard Schultz will blog here and 48 Starbucks employees will be assigned to engage in conversations with customers on the website.

Perhaps an "autopsy" is premature, but Brand Autopsy does provide a critique:

Chris Bruzzo, Starbucks chief technology officer, made the following statement when introducing the website, “I am not aware of another organization that is investing in making this kind of a commitment to integrate customers and their ideas and their insights into the products and experiences that they develop.”

So we are to believe Starbucks is unaware of Dell’s social media activities with Direct2Dell and more importantly, IdeaStorm....

While acknowledging that Starbucks has made "a major cultural shift" with this initiative, Brand Autopsy wonders what will happen in the long term:

Time will tell if Starbucks customers are engaged by this online activity. Time will also tell if Starbucks corporate culture will adapt to social media and when (or if) Starbucks will implement customer ideas. Right now the most popular customer generated idea is for the company to implement a Buy 9 Drinks Get 1 Free punch card. That’s a marketing activity the company abolished a long time ago. How will Starbucks respond now?

Sarah Wurrey notes that Jeff Jarvis is encouraged. This is what he said:

Following Dell’s Ideastorm, Starbucks has no opened a forum — also powered by — where customers can make suggestions then discuss and vote on them. Starbucks, of all companies, with its loyal and opinionated customers, should have been doing this years ago. Every company should be doing it now.

Jarvis also noted the feedback that Starbucks has been receiving:

Already, there are clear themes coming out in the Starbucks discussion. Many customers are suggesting — and many more are agreeing — that our frequent-sipper cards should have our regular orders embedded in them so we could swipe the card at the door, make the order, pay for it, and avoid that damned line (making that damned line shorter for everyone else). Others are also suggesting they want to do the same with their iPhones. This genius comes not from MBAs or executives but from customers. If you’ll just listen.

But Gawker notes that "a serious fight could be brewing" (heh) because Jim Romenesko claims that the Starbucks site is muscling in on his territory. Romenesko writes:

" was clearly inspired by my site, which was created nearly four years ago to move barista/customer conversations to the web," Romenesko said in an e-mail Wednesday.

"My site will continue to thrive because it's an authentic reflection of how customers and employees feel about the company., on the other hand, is clearly a corporate propaganda site," he said.

I have not yet signed up for My Starbucks Idea, but considering that my wife just came home with two messed-up drinks (even after the #starbout and retraining), perhaps I should.

P.S. The title to my post was inspired by my previous tweet.

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