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With all the talk of the importance of customer engagement at the moment, it's good to see that at least one initiative has taken off. Thousands of customers of Starbucks took up the coffee firm's offer of asking them to to come up with changes the company should make to revive its struggling US business.

Starbucks is promoting MyStarbucksIdea on its main corporate home page and with counter cards in stores that say "Have an idea for us?" on one side and the Web address on the back. MyStarbucksIdea is monitored by about 50 Starbucks employees who are specialists in segments of the business such as coffee and espresso drinks, food, ordering, payment and pickup. The site is powered by Salesforce.com.

The MyStarbucksIdea.com was first unveiled at the company's annual meeting in mid-March. Sceptics argued that the "online suggestion box" was a half-baked notion, but it seems to have caught on. Before it went live, Chris Bruzzo, Starbucks' chief information officer, said he was hoping a few hundred ideas would trickle in the first few days - instead he got about 300 in the first hour, mostly it must be said from irate shareholders worried about the stock price...

"Most brands do not put out a welcome mat for feedback," Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of strategic services for the market research firm Nielsen Online told the Associated Press. "Generally feedback is viewed as a cost of doing business rather than an opportunity. Starbucks is saying this is an opportunity.

"MyStarbucksIdea also has the feel of an online social network. Though users can't link up over e-mail or post profiles of themselves, the comments they post often read like friendly conversations - with people complimenting one another on their ideas or elaborating when comments about their posts make them feel misunderstood."

So a good start for Starbucks in the US. Now all they need to do is get some the speedy service ethos to drip feed down into their UK branches...

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