When consumers take the time to complain about your product, thank them!
Why? It creates countless opportunities for your business. Here’s how:
- You have a chance to retain a customer. Acquiring new customers costs significantly more than holding on to existing ones.
- Identifying potential food safety and quality issues before they escalate can mitigate risks of product recalls.
- It provides a potential gold mine of information and valuable insights about consumers.
- Leverage it to promote your brand by expanding your customer database. But be sure to get the customers’ permission, to comply with anti-spam legislation. Then keep in touch by sending relevant content that your customers value.
- When consumers ask, “Where can I buy your product?” it identifies market gaps and distribution issues.
Putting brands to the test
When I have a product quality complaint, apart from not liking the flavour, I contact the company. My hope is that the problem will be fixed, renewing my trust in the brand. My ulterior motive is to test how brands respond. I contacted three brands with a complaint and received the following responses:
Brand A sent a polite letter acknowledging there was a problem and their intent to correct it, with estimated timing. That was exactly what I wanted to hear. I also received several coupons for free product. That’s what I call exemplary customer service! I spread the word about my positive experience and continue to be loyal to the brand.
Brand B replied that a package I purchased with half its contents missing “should in no way affect its net weight”. They basically rebuffed my complaint, but offered a coupon for the same product. Fearing the same issue may occur with my next purchase, I lost trust in the brand and haven’t bought their product since.
Brand C responded with total silence. Needless to say, I won’t be buying their product again.
10 secrets to Exemplary Customer Service
#1. Prepare policies and procedures for responding to inquiries and investigating complaints.
#2. Make it easy for customers to contact you through various means and have a live person answer the phone.
#3. Respond with a sense of urgency. These days everyone expects instant gratification.
#4. Consult quality assurance to get the facts straight and seek advice from a lawyer for personal injury complaints.
#5. Draft carefully worded form letters for a variety of queries. How will you respond to quality complaints and questions about food safety, ingredients, claims, promotions, donations, social missions, environmental sustainability and product availability? Responses should have a positive and sincere tone and be customized for every situation. Also ensure that brand messaging is consistent with the brand strategy.
#6. Today’s consumers expect total transparency and ask probing questions about their food. Be prepared to answer those questions by developing a library of nonproprietary product information that is shareable.
#7. Listen carefully to what the customer is saying and reply accordingly.
#8. Manage customer expectations through clear communication.
#9. Whatever you call it – customer care or consumer relations – ensure employees are trained to deal with the public diplomatically in difficult circumstances. A misstep, particularly in social media, can cause an explosive situation.
#10. Find a way to reimburse customers for poor product performance.
In the end, the secret to exemplary customer service is simple. Next time you receive a complaint, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. How would you expect to be treated?
As a packaged foods specialist, Birgit Blain transforms food into retail-ready products. Her experience includes 17 years with Loblaw Brands and President’s Choice®. Contact her at Birgit@BBandAssoc.com or learn more at www.BBandAssoc.com
© Birgit Blain
This article appeared in Food in Canada magazine.