If you have a flood of complaints you need to address the main concerns.

Here’s some simple advice to help your business drive loyalty and engagement.

In America, coffee shop brand Starbucks has infuriated its customers after changing its customer loyalty program from one that rewarded people for the number of items they purchased to a scheme that rewards dollars spent. It’s become a “stars awarded based on what you buy” system, the website reads, where patrons receive two stars for each dollar spent.  

The update seems to have upset many patrons, with customers calling out Starbucks on social media stressing that the scheme change favours those who make more expensive purchases. The new program disadvantages those who typically spend less that $5 per visit, where coffee lovers who buy a $2 cup of coffee, for example, have to dish out $90 or more per year to reach gold status. 

They are a few important takeaways that SMB owners can learn from the brands’ decision:

1. Introduce changes gradually

In an article for Forbes, neuromarketing expert Roger Dooley says if Starbucks had taken a more gradual approach, it wouldn’t have alienated as many customers and could have helped avoid the impression that it is failing to answer the needs of its customers. 

2. It’s all in the wording

It’s insensitive to present a change as something that customers were looking for if that isn’t the overwhelming case, suggests Dooley.

“Presenting the change in a manner that suggested ‘here’s the change you were asking for!’ is also a recipe for upset customers. Starbucks has all the data for each rewards member, and it would have been easy to target low-dollar customers with a special message to soften the blow,” he writes.

A carefully crafted message to customers who will be most affected by a change could leave your reputation in a better state. Similarly, if you’re looking to attract new customers, acknowledge the customer as a person, not just a ‘sign up’ target.

3. Handle your social media accounts

If you have a flood of complaints you need to address the main concerns. Ensure you have educated your team on how to communicate the benefits of your loyalty program or brand change. Everyone should understand the positive aspects so that they can get on board with the idea and become enthusiastic advocates.


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