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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Starbucks customers clamoring for more free Wi-Fi

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- The Starbucks Corporation has launched a social network, of sorts, where customers can post suggestions or complaints, and vote on the posts of other customers if they agree. Like foam in a cappuccino, the most popular entries rise to the top.

First, let me say this move is bold and beautiful, and that other companies should emulate it. The site, called My Starbucks Idea, provides a way for the company to focus its attention on the real complaints or concerns real customers really have, rather than the ones the company imagines are most important. Plus it makes customers feel trusted and listened to. Bravo, Starbucks.

Comments are categorized. In the "Atmosphere & Locations" category, the customers are clamoring for free Wi-Fi.

As I reported February 11, Starbucks announced on that day two hours of free Wi-Fi for Starbucks cardholders at locations that have a Wi-Fi network. If the comments on My Starbucks Idea are any indication, customers want a lot more Wi-Fi, and they want it a lot freer.

The number-one voted comment (with nearly three times the number of votes as the number-two comment) is: "Starbucks needs to make ALL stores have free Wi-Fi. In Seattle I go to Tully's, because of the free Wi-Fi, not superior service." Another customer wrote: "I purposely go to a cafe in my home town that offers free wi-fi. I drive by 3 Starbucks on the way there and pay 50 cents more for the mocha for the free wi-fi."

As you browse the comments it becomes clear that customers want free Wi-Fi, and other things that go with it, such as:

"convenient power connections for laptops"

"one or two comfy study desks for students to spread out. I always fell guilty using the handicap table."

"A way for Starbucks to offer free WiFi to customers, and not the rest of the surrounding area, would be to place temporary passwords on each cup that expire after a set amount of time (e.g. 2 hours)."

Starbucks has done the right thing with My Starbucks Idea, and it appears to be well-implemented. Now if they can address the major complaints -- such as moving to free Wi-Fi -- they'll have hit a major home run.

Original here

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