Complaining customers as an opportunity to improve business

Complaining customers as an opportunity to improve business

Internal communication an important part of any change management process

Companies love positive feedback – they post it on their website and use it as marketing fodder. But what about when feedback is, well, less than pleasant? What can you do with a handful – or more – of irate customers? Do you ignore them? Bury them out back? Not in today’s social atmosphere.

Don’t sweep unhappy customers under the rug

Rather than try to sweep these unhappy customers under the rug, look at them as a challenge and an opportunity to improve your brand and leverage them for some publicity.

A brand that has the ability to embrace criticism as well as praise is Domino’s pizza. Instead of cowering in shame or responding angrily to negative online reviews and comments about their products, Dominos pizza met the criticism head on –  “Oh yes we did – The Pizza Turnaround“.

Dell has arranged what they call “Customer Advisory Panel (CAP) Days”. About 30 customers from across the United States attended the events over two days. Conversations and interactive panels took place in front of the eager ears of many Dell employees across various groups of the business, to hear firsthand what the attendees think of the brand overall, the products and the customer service. The group was split into two, a day for individuals who recently had a frustrating experience with Dell and a day for individuals who are vocal evangelists for the brand.

The attendees started the morning with their gripes – customer service issues came up again and again. The heads of customer service and marketing were present and actively engaged. As they listened, they took notes, then asked questions and they promised they would make changes.

That type of customer empowerment is important. Now, whether they’ll go through with the promised changes is another story, but it was clear that Dell understood it was time to start paying attention to the public’s perception of its brand, and make some changes to keep their customers.

Nestlé is another company that has been successful at holding an event to let people engage with its brand directly. After a resurgence in interest in the Nestle Boycott, Nestlé decided to invite a group of bloggers to what it called its “Happy, Healthy Gathering”. Mommy bloggers, who’d been tweeting up a storm about the company’s stance on breastfeeding in third world countries, were invited to tour the facilities and give their input on the company.

In order to sell more of its infant formula in third world countries, Nestle would hire women with no special training and dress them up as nurses to give out free samples of Nestle formula. The free samples lasted long enough for the mother’s breast milk to dry up from lack of use. Then mothers would be forced to purchase the formula but, being poor, they would often mix the formula with unsanitary water or ‘stretch’ the amount of formula by diluting it with more water than recommended. The result was that babies starved all over the Third World while Nestle made huge profits from this predatory marketing strategy. (The Nestle Boycott)

Whether the event truly changed perceptions remains to be seen, but it did a great deal to show that Nestlé was putting in the effort to reach its audience.

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About The Author

Torben Rick

Experienced senior executive, both at a strategic and operational level, with strong track record in developing, driving and managing business improvement, development and change management. International experience from management positions in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and United Kingdom

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