I got grounded for the first time when I was seven. I was playing with a ball indoors and ended up shattering a vase. Panicked, I swept the pieces under the table and acted as though nothing had happened. Unfortunately, my relief was short-lived. When my mom found out, I was subjected to a court-martial. No TV for a week and my allowance was revoked.
All this, not because I broke the vase, but because I chose to hide it.
This little nugget of wisdom transcends all ages, from seven-year-olds to million dollar corporations that have been around for around two decades.
The Intel Blunder:
Intel released the new Pentium chip in 1993, designing it in a record time of two years. A little over a year later, Intel test engineers realized that there was a flaw in the chip. Instead of recalling the product, the corporation decided to replace the faulty chips in the computers that were still in the manufacturing stage and hoped nobody would notice.
They were wrong.
It took less than three weeks for news agencies to get a whiff of the story. Lawsuits followed. This error of judgement subsequently cost Intel 475 million dollars, and their reputation took a beating.
So how do we clear the smoke between customers and the company?
Your customer trusts you and pays for the services you offer. You have to keep that trust alive. Be straight-forward and accurate when it comes to explaining costs, pricing, fees, and specific deliverables.
Make promises you can keep:
Being overly eager to please might stem from good intentions, but they might get overshadowed by undelivered promises. When services are not delivered on time, the customer feels betrayed and loses faith. Make promises that you can keep, and make sure you uphold them. If you cannot meet the deadline, make sure your customer understands why.
Like trust, communication is a two-way street. One-sided conversations never work, and you need to make sure conversation is engaging and constructive. Listen to your customers and ensure they feel like they’re speaking to someone who understands their problems. Foster a healthy relationship with your customer by keeping them informed about changes they’d want to know about.
Mistakes happen. It’s natural. However, attempts to hide them will have both long-term and short-term repercussions. The sooner a problem is admitted, the sooner it can be remedied. Responding quickly with an earnest apology to the customer with an assurance that the mistake will not happen again is a step in the right direction.
Responding swiftly to an angry customer goes a long way in making things better, even if the message is a simple “I’ll look into it and get back to you”. This conveys an important message to the customers: They matter to the organization. However, while speed is necessary, it doesn’t mean that it should come at the cost of quality. Make sure the response is the right mix of swiftness and empathy.
Domino’s Pizza used negative feedback to their advantage by adopting a transparent approach.
The Domino Effect:
In 2008, Domino’s Pizza conducted a survey to gauge public reception of one of their products. The results were not encouraging. In a brave move, Domino’s Pizza went public with the results, asking for suggestions to improve the quality of their products. Not only did this venture help Domino’s get an edge over competitors, but also helped them gain an active and invested consumer base. Within a few months of releasing the program, the chain saw a jump of 14.3% in same-store sales, one of the largest ever recorded increases in a major fast food chain.
Today’s customers are the smartest and the most aware they’ve been. Organizations need to invest in content, publish data and results, and in some cases, even show the customers what’s happening behind the scenes. Transparency is a quality that, when applied, makes the entire process more relatable to the customer. When a company embraces transparency, it gains levels of trust and respect that will pay off in the long term.
A transparent company not only attracts new customers, but also encourages a culture that is healthy, holistic, and accommodative.