Revisiting My Starbucks Idea

Starbucks claims to have listened to and launched 185 ideas from customers. Much like the original list of 53 ideas, Starbucks is taking far too much credit for implementing customer-driven ideas.

Starbucks is proud to say they’ve listened to nearly 125,000 customer ideas and implemented 185 of them from their (MSI) program. (MSI is a website where customers submit and discuss ideas on ways Starbucks can improve its business.)

A year ago I dissected the 53 customer-submitted ideas Starbucks took credit for implementing and found Starbucks should only take credit for implementing 6 ideas.

For example, Starbucks credits a customer idea for the Splash Sticks they offer customers to help ensure coffee doesn’t spill out of the plastic lid. Reality is this idea was being done in Japan months before its introduction into the North American market. It’s not a customer-generated idea because this idea was already in the Starbucks product pipeline.

(You can read my full breakdown of those 53 ideas in this post – Tough Love for Starbucks.)

Today, Starbucks claims to have listened to and launched 185 ideas from customers. Much like the original list of 53 ideas, Starbucks is taking far too much credit for implementing customer-driven ideas.

Here are a few ideas where Starbucks falsely credits customers as the source and wrongly takes credit for making the customer idea happen:

Idea #170 | Starbucks K-Cups®
Let’s be real. It took Starbucks a few years to get on the K-Cup bandwagon because it didn’t want to help a competitor make money. Green Mountain Coffee roasts/sells coffee and owns the Keurig K-Cup brewer. It’s estimated Keurig has 80% market share in the single-serve coffee brewer category.

Green Mountain Coffee receives a royalty fee for each K-Cup pod produced and receives money by having coffee roasters purchase a K-Cup packaging machine. Starbucks has been reluctant to produce K-Cups because if they did, it would directly benefit a competitor.

The single-serve coffee market has become too large and the financial opportunity is too huge for Starbucks to ignore. K-Cups have always been on Starbucks radar. It didn’t take a customer suggestion on MyStarbucksIdea to make Starbucks aware of the K-Cup opportunity.

Idea #138 | 24 oz. Reusable Cold Cup
Hard to give credit to the customer idea for something that has long been part of the Starbucks merchandise mix. Starbucks has sold Cold Cups for years in all sorts of styles, colors, etc. They’re called Travel Tumblers and these cups can keep cold coffee cold and hot coffee hot.

Idea #124 | Sell Kona Coffee
It’s not like Stabucks hasn’t thought of selling Kona Coffee before. It’s not often, but Starbucks has sold 100% Kona Coffee before and will sell it again when they get a crop that’s worthy of selling as a stand-alone varietal.

Idea #114 | Open a store in El Salvador
Idea #64 | Open a store in Sweden
Are we to believe Starbucks didn’t have El Salvador and Sweden on the list of potential new international markets until a customer suggested it?

Idea #84 | Extend the Treat Receipt
The “Treat Receipt” is a $2 OFF coupon to encourage morning daypart customers to make a return visit in the afternoon daypart. Starbucks began this promotion in 2009. Did it again in 2010. And, did it again in 2011. Not sure the company can give credit to a customer idea for what looks to be a successful on-going promotion.

Idea #80 | VIA® Ready Brew at Grocery Stores
It was always in the plans for Starbucks to sell its instant coffee in grocery stores. In no way can the company give credit to a customer for giving them this brilliant idea.

Idea #78 | Better Incentives for Personal Mugs
The long-standing Starbucks policy has been to give customers a 10-cent discount for using their personal mug. It’s a policy that has been around for 20+ years.

Starbucks could have responded to this customer idea by upping the 10-cent discount to 15-cents to better account for inflation. Nope. Instead, Starbucks responded to this idea by offering a one-day promotion where a customer could get a free brewed coffee in their personal mug.

Not sure a one-day free coffee promotion is what the customer had in mind for their idea of having a more compelling reason to use their personal mug.

By no means am I saying the MyStarbucksIdea website isn’t worthy. It is worthy. The conversations that take place on the website give Starbucks a worthwhile look into what customers are interested in. It also gives the company a valuable opportunity to talk directly with customers.

My point was and still is… it’s cheating to match programs/products you already have in the pipeline with the ideas submitted by customers. It’s also cheating to declare you’ve implemented customer ideas when clearly, you haven’t. Starbucks is too smart a company to cheat. (So don’t.)

As a former Starbucks marketer, it irks me to think Starbucks partners are walking around HQ congratulating themselves for being so customer-focused when, in reality, they would have done nearly all of these ideas without the MyStarbucksIdea website.