In 2008, when he was recalled to lead the company facing difficulties, he found himself with a problem for which he was unprepared: a crisis on the Internet. "I woke up one day and went to my desk, and I had 75 to 100 e-mails and phone calls about an issue I had never heard of. There was a sensational story in the Sun, in London, that Starbucks was wasting water through something called the 'dipper well' (....) The lesson was that the world had changed. Something that had happened in London had created a worldwide story that positioned Starbucks with venom and disrespect. And we didn't know how to respond."
Starbucks drew two key lessons from it:
- In the new world around us, we should not set up a tool, but adopt a new way of behaving.
- A brand should be proactive in order to become a source of trust and not just a seller of products or ideas.
- A website, mystarbucksidea.com, helps to gather suggestions and ideas from customers - in terms of products, experience, service, commitment of the brand. These are discussed, shared and implemented. The brand also accepts that its customers tell it where it went wrong, and to acknowledge it: the brand becomes more "open and vulnerable."
- The Facebook page also keeps contact - and maintains a dialogue with customers.
- A partnership with Foursquare is underway to test a "customer rewards system: clients that access a café ("checking in") using Foursquare (a programme of geo-location and contact among friends) earn points on their loyalty card and personalized gifts (according to The New York Times)
- It has developed highly innovative iPhone applications: the first one (MyStarbucks), helps one find the nearest Starbucks, provides information on coffee in the world as well as nutritional information / the second, (Starbucks Mobile Card) allows customers to manage their loyalty card themselves AND use it as a means of payment.
The results are evident (11 million fans!!). Howard Schultz believes that Starbucks has, not only a far lower cost for acquiring new customers than most other brands, but also its operational culture has changed: "it has changed our go-to-market strategy - how we communicate, unveil, and innovate, and ultimately how we arrive in the marketplace"