Today is the day that loyal Starbucks customers have either been waiting for, or dreading (depending on who you talk to)…today is the day that the company plans to implement a series of changes to its My Starbucks Rewards customer loyalty program. These changes were announced about a month ago, causing enough uproar that over 4,500 unhappy customers signed an online petition to reverse some of the proposed changes.
I was honestly shocked that there was such a public outcry over the Starbucks rewards program, given that I have always been too lazy to participate. I go to Starbucks maybe once a week or so (I wrote part of this blog post in a Starbucks yesterday, in full disclosure), and I love everything from the seasonally delightful Pumpkin Spice Latte to the tried and true Skinny Vanilla Latte. I have joined their customer loyalty program (a few times, actually, over the years), and love receiving in the mail a postcard for a free birthday drink (this is one part of the program that will change: no more postcard in lieu of an electronic birthday award). However the My Starbucks Rewards program relies on my either remembering to use a Starbucks card or utilize the mobile app every time I make a purchase there. Unfortunately, oftentimes I walk into Starbucks with nothing but a $5 in my hand and my dog tied up outside waiting for me to finish our walk. Add that to the fact that I can’t use my phone number if I forget my card, and my inability to remember to register gift cards that I receive, and I have just given up trying (as a side note, my husband finds it ridiculous that I belong to car rental loyalty programs when I rent a car on average .5 times/year yet am too lazy to actually take advantage of My Starbucks Rewards).
Obviously, I am the only one. My Starbucks Rewards is a phenomenally popular customer loyalty program, one that is making a series of changes to the program based on customer feedback. One change that I find bittersweet is one mentioned above: doing away with the physical postcards that are mailed to program members on their birthday in lieu of an electronic reward. However this change is being made due to customer demand, proving that Starbucks is committed to their customers and the expectations of said customers in this digital age.
Another change to the program that I find very customer-centric is that Starbucks is now rewarding customers with free food or drink (not just a free drink, as was the case until today!) after 12 purchases, vs 15 in the past. Not only do loyal customers accrue rewards more quickly, but they aren’t limited in their choice of rewards to simply a free beverage.
Finally, I think that Starbucks did a great job publicizing the changes to their loyalty program far enough in advance as to not take their loyal customers by surprise. A public announcement was made about a month before the changes went into effect today, and the company communicated with all of the members of its loyalty program via an email explaining the changes. Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone, as shown by the 4,500+ customers who are unhappy about the components of the loyalty program that are being discontinued, such as free syrup and free soy milk.
All in all, I think that Starbucks did a great job not only changing its loyalty program to reflect the desires of its customers, but communicating the forthcoming changes with them as well. Who knows, this could be the push that I need to finally become an active My Starbucks Rewards member…I just checked my account online, and I am only 9 more purchases away from a free food or drink item of my choosing!