How Twitter Helps Starbucks Brew Up an Excellent Customer Experience

This post is part of the Twitter for Brands Series, which features winning strategies from the top brand pages on Twitter and provides tips on how to emulate their successes. For more on Twitter, check out The Content Marketer’s Guide to Promoted Tweets.

Starbucks is a social media giant. The brand boasts 40 million fans on Facebook, 12,000 subscribers on YouTube, and 2.1 million followers on Twitter. What’s even more impressive, one-on-one customer engagement on these channels led to Starbucks posting a record quarterly earning, according to CEO Howard Schultz.

By actively listening to customers’ concerns, criticisms, positive feedback, and suggestions, Starbucks has become the model for social media excellence in the corporate world. Twitter has proven to be an incredibly valuable tool for Starbucks. Its brand building strategies have made it the eighth most popular company on the microblogging site, beating out gargantuan companies like Walmart, McDonald’s, and Microsoft. The success of its page is not so secret, either.

Satisfying Disgruntled Customers

Checking out Starbucks’ Twitter page, it’s visible that most of the tweets are directed at users. One follower tweeted her disappointment with the coffee shop after she didn’t receive the traditional e-coupon on her birthday.

Starbucks replied, “@vickymaz Sorry to hear! Please call us at 1-800 -STARBUC. We promise we’ll help you celebrate your birthday, even if it’s a bit belated!” In fact, many of its tweets start with “sorry about that!” or “sorry to hear!,” offering dismayed customers solutions to their problems.

Instead of losing disgruntled customers, Starbucks directly responds, solving the issues and making sure that customers are, in the end, satisfied. People want their voices to be heard. Twitter gives customers, especially dissatisfied ones, that capability. No company wants that negative press out there.

By responding to customers directly and doing its best to fix the problem, Starbucks shows that it cares about the people who buy its products. In order for any business to have an effective social media or Twitter strategy, they must connect with customers and not ignore their concerns, especially when it comes to negative experiences with the brand. Any company seeking the same social media success as Starbucks must look out for their customers and communicate with them.

Listening To and Learning From Customers

Along with the original @Starbucks account, the company started @MyStarbucksIdea, where its 30,000+ followers can feel free to send in ideas on how to make their overall experiences better. On a separate blog, Starbucks lists ideas that were put into action. These include new kinds of cake pop flavors, bringing back Ethiopia Sidamo coffee, and improving recycling methods for the stores. “There is a major element of Twitter that’s about listening and learning,” says employee Brad Nelson, who manages Starbucks’ Twitter strategy. “Twitter is a leading indicator.” Starbucks not only listens to its customers, but its takes action, implementing customer ideas and giving credit on its blog to the Twitter user that pitched the idea. For any business to be successful, it has to be willing to take suggestions from customers and always be seeking out ways to improve itself. The customers feel empowered when a platform is created for them to conveniently post their thoughts and ideas. Everyone has an opinion, and by taking the time to listen and respond to them via social media, Starbucks has built up its customers’ confidence in the company.

Bringing the In-Store Experience To Twitter

In early 2008, when Nelson first came up with a Twitter strategy for the company, he said, “It’s a lot like being a barista on the Internet.” A big turnoff for followers of a brand via social media is constant company promotions. Customers don’t want to be sold on the company’s products. Starbucks treats its fans and followers like their own friends, prompting them to send in pictures with their favorite drink or asking how they spent Valentine’s Day. Starbucks has transferred the in-store experience to the online realm. Nelson, who used to be a barista himself, made a world for Starbucks on Twitter that feels just as personal as walking into the store itself. For businesses to see the same kind of results as Starbucks, they have to treat customers as equals, friends, and colleagues. They must be sympathetic when things go wrong, give positive feedback, and listen to suggested ideas, just like an in-store employee would.

A Focus on Customer Service

As for the future of the company’s Twitter page, it’s clear that Starbucks will continue to put emphasis on customer relations on its social media sites, according to Chris Bruzzo, Starbucks’ VP-brand content and online. He said, “This was not [built as a] marketing channel, but as a consumer relationship-building environment.”

More on Starbucks: Why Starbucks Is Trying to Launch a Media Company

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