Starbucks is hoping text messages can fix its biggest problem

Starbucks MelodyStarbucks MelodyA barista scans a receipt to send a customer a text message saying their order is ready.

Starbucks is hoping that text messages can help alleviate the chaos and long lines in its stores caused by surges in mobile orders.

The coffee chain has started sending text message notifications to customers in the Seattle area when their mobile orders are ready.

The chain is likely hoping that the messages help prevent customers from arriving at stores before their orders are ready, which often leads to crowding around the pickup counters.

Unfortunately for baristas, however, the new system adds a step to their jobs.

Seattle attorney Melody Overton tested out the new technology for her blog, Starbucks Melody.

Here’s how it works, according to Overton:

A customer orders a drink on their smartphone, and gets a time range (for example, between 8-13 minutes) for when it will be ready.

Meanwhile, at the store, a ticket is printed out for the mobile order that features a barcode.

Once a barista is finished making that order, he or she will scan the barcode. That scan will send a text message notification to the customer, letting them know that their order is ready.

Overton says the technology should help clear drinks from the counter more quickly, which is important because when there’s a backlog of mobile orders waiting to be picked up, the pickup counter can get crowded and confusing.

Starbucks is also considering more drastic changes, such as adding more employees and redesigning stores, to fix the problems arising from its mobile ordering system.

In January, Starbucks reported that transactions, an important measure of customer traffic, dropped 2% in the most recent quarter, in part because of problems caused by mobile ordering.

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