Too Much Caffeine To Listen

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I am not a Starbucks basher. I have a Starbucks Card in my wallet right now and I do visit them – but, only when there isn’t a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby. I just happen to like Dunkin’ coffee better. That doesn’t make me a bad person nor does it make me anti-Starbucks.

However, some people have spent way too much time in Starbucks and they are almost in denial when someone does say something to criticize their favorite coffee brewer. A couple of weeks ago I posted here about my experience with buying Starbucks cards versus Dunkin’ Donuts cards. The Starbucks experience was confusing, convoluted and intrusive – a really bad experience purchasing something. Dunkin’ was – well as easy as dunkin’ a donut.

Then last week, Starbucks made an announcement that they are going to listen to their customers. They put up an online suggestion box called MyStarbucksIdea. My first thought was “What the heck have they been doing before now – not listening.” Listening to your customers is business and marketing rule number one – isn’t it? The move was much ballyhooed by bloggers and even the traditional press.

I then asked on another blog (where they were patting Starbucks on the back) if anyone had actually tried posting their idea to MyStarbucksIdea. I did try it.

Once again, it was confusing, convoluted and intrusive. First, you need an account which means giving up a lot of personal information just to give them a suggestion. If you already have an account – which I do since I had to establish one so I could buy something from them – then you had better remember your User ID. I didn’t and I got this message, “We’re sorry but we are unable to validate your credentials.”

CREDENTIALS! Who knew I had Starbuck’s Credentials! Then you learn you cannot retrieve the User ID – I mean credentials – without contacting customer support by phone and maybe email.

I’m sorry, but this is no way for a company to solicit input from their customers. One of the comments I got back on my posting was, “I’m positive that fear of spam, greifers, and ugly participation needed to be avoided by making registration & authentication mandatory to participate.” I don’t agree.

You want to authenticate to avoid SPAM – then authenticate. Because someone has to create an account does not mean they aren’t going to indulge in griefing or posting stupid suggestions if that’s their desire. I’m have faith that the Starbucks folks reading the suggestions will be able to sort out the authentic from the junk.

But, Starbucks is never going to hear from a lot of people because those people didn’t have the time to jump through the hoops and go through the roadblocks that Starbucks has put in front of making an authentic suggestion.

My advice to Starbucks – get the engineers out of your web site design. Put marketing in charge of the design. Then make sure that senior management plays customer at least once a week online or in a store. Try to buy something. Pretend you don’t remember your User ID. Then really start listening to your customers.

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