INTERNATIONAL | Staff Reporter, UK

Starbucks partners with Microsoft to boost customer service experience through technology

The services are range from machine learning to blockchain.

Starbucks has partnered with Microsoft to implement advanced technologies for a more personal connection with its customers.

The coffee chain has been using reinforcement learning technology — a type of machine learning in which a system learns to make decisions in complex, unpredictable environments based upon external feedback. Within the app, customers receive tailor-made order suggestions generated via a reinforcement learning platform that is built and hosted in Microsoft Azure.

Now, Starbucks is looking to expand this technology to the drive-thru experience.

“Everything we do in technology is centered around the customer connection in the store, the human connection, one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time,” Starbucks executive vice president and chief technology officer Gerri Martin-Flickinger said.

The company also implemented its cloud computing service called Azure Sphere, it secures the coming wave of connected internet of things (IoT) devices across its store equipment.

Azure Sphere’s goal is to shift from reactive maintenance to a predictive approach that heads off issues before they happen. Longer term, the company envisions leveraging Azure Sphere for additional uses such as managing inventory and ordering supplies.

Starbucks is also developing a feature that shows customers information about where their packaged coffee comes from and what Starbucks is doing to support farmers in those locations.

This new transparency is powered by Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Service. Each state change is recorded to a shared, immutable ledger providing all parties a more complete view of their products’ journey.

“While high-quality, handcrafted beverages are so important, it’s the stories, the people, the connections, the humanity behind that coffee that inspires everything we do,” Starbucks senior vice president of Global Coffee & Tea Michelle Burns said.

US$1 billion sustainability bond issued
The coffee giant also announced that it has completed issuance of a US$1 billion sustainability bond, its largest bond of this type to date.

This follows two previously issued Sustainability Bonds in 2016 and 2017.

“We are very pleased to see that our new Sustainability Bond attracted significant investor interest and was oversubscribed,” Starbucks CFO Patrick Grismer said. “The bond demonstrates Starbucks commitment to meaningful, continual progress toward our aspiration of sustainable coffee, served sustainably. It also illustrates a trend toward heavier interest from investors in our socially and environmentally focused projects – in this case supporting coffee farmers and leading in green retail.”

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