Is Your Company an Ostrich or a Fox?

Last year my daughter went to a special American Apparel sale, which was over-run with eager shoppers. They had to close and, when the police arrived, it turned into a bit of a riot. I posted something about it on my facebook page, not even aware that this was publicly visible. Within an hour I’d got an apology by email from American Apparel and a voucher giving 40% off at their online site.

Contrast that with a recent experience with the insurance company MoreTh>n. After being dis-satisfied with their service (they refused to provide information on the effect of a claim and lost my replacement bicycle order) I filled in their feedback form fairly negatively. I then waited for them to contact me, presuming any decent company would want to contact a customer who had made clear they were unhappy. Of course, no call came.

Ostrich and FoxThese are the two ends of customer service. On the one hand you have you have the foxes, eagerly scouring the internet to find any negative mention of their name and responding directly to the customer. And then there are the ostriches, burying their heads in the sand, and somehow managing to ignore negative feedback even when it is submitted on their own feedback forms.

At Happy we have long sought out any unhappy customers. We are lucky in that we get daily feedback, but the crucial thing is to do something with it. If any course gets 2 or more Averages or below (out of 30 responses, given that each student rates 5 items) then we aim to call the learner the next day, to find out if something went wrong for them. If they did not have a great day, all our people know they can do whatever is needed to make them a happy customer again.

I ended up filing a formal complaint with More Th>n and asked them why they hadn’t responded to the feedback. “Oh, that gets fed back monthly but it goes to the individual you talked to. We would never contact the customer in response. They can lodge a formal complaint if they are unhappy.”

More Th>n are, of course, not alone or even unusual. Whenever I’ve had a bad experience i do tend to fill out a feedback form, being careful to be negative enough to trigger any alert the company might be using. But less than 1 in 10 companies do respond. Presumably they use the surveys only for their internal stats but not to actually respond to their customers. This is something I’ve never understood. If a customer has told you they are unhappy, why would you not want to talk to them and see if you can turn them round?

So the question for you is: do you actively search out any dis-satisfied customers. Do you keep an eye on Twitter and scour the internet for comments about your company (using software like Whois Talking). Do you check your feedback and make direct contact with any response that looks unhappy? Or do you stick your head in the sand and only respond if they are so annoyed that they go to the trouble of taking out a formal complaint?

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