In the last post I reference Google’s tool for soliciting ideas from users. I pointed out several things that I think need to be addressed in order to make the tool useful. But rather then complain about the concept I want to point out someone doing it the right way. The site I’m referring to is My Starbucks Idea. The concept is pretty much the same as what Google is trying to accomplish. One thing to note, this is not a magical Starbucks concoction that would be impossible to replicate. They are using Salesforce.com’s Platform As A Service (PaaS) product called Ideas. Wasn’t that the Easter egg dye we used as kids? I digress.
Once you have an account you get one vote per idea if you choose to vote. It can be positive or negative. This is actually a recent addition and one this community begged for early on. Where Starbucks excels is in the way users navigate through the ideas. This site has been up much longer than Googles so there are over 490 pages of ideas. Clearly this isn’t practical for normal users to mess with. The solution was to provide several navigation options.
This is essential since many people coming in may expect that their idea has already been submitted. The more votes an idea gets the more likely the company will notice it and try to address it. This makes working through the system much faster for people that want to be quick.
The ability to quickly navigate to a Category is displayed in two ways. One is a drop down selection and the other is in the left hand navigation. Redundancy is nice as it gives users two ways of getting to the same spot with fundamentally different methods. I could go on about this one, but I’ll save that for another day.
The links under the main navigation is an additional method of getting to some highly visited pages. The options are: Popular Ideas, Recent Ideas, Top All-Time and Comments.
The key here is allowing for customer discussion. This isn’t a suggestion box with blind voting, but rather a lively discussion area. Obviously Starbucks is not basing their decision to do something based purely on the customer feedback. However, the feedback provides excellent insight into what customers are looking for and expecting. Especially the loyal wants that want to keep giving their money to Starbucks.
Communication is 2Way
The central component here is that Starbucks is engaged with their customers. This isn’t just a community sounding board that employees are monitoring. They actually participate. They will comment back to customers in discussions. Users feel like they have a voice and are being heard. Not just commiserating with fellow coffee drinkers.
Google can get there, but if you are looking for a solution for your company I would argue that the Salesforce.com solution is great. Just make sure you are prepared to commit resources to engaging the community.