Consumer complaints have changed a lot since I was a brand assistant at P&G. Back then, we used to get the odd letter* from a pissed off punter. We would eventually get round to giving the consumer helpline an answer.
* A bit of paper you write on and put in an envelope with a "stamp" on, for any younger readers
Today, we live in a connected, always-on world. We've all become incredibly demanding and have lots of ways to express our frustration when things go wrong. And lots of ways to "amplify" these negative feelings if we don't get the right response, with examples like "United Breaks Guitars" becoming YouTube sensations (14 million views and counting).
One company who has responded brilliantly to this challenge is Charlie Bigham's, the maker of lovely ready meals.
Now, if this happened on your brand, how long would it take to respond. And by response, I don't mean "Thanks for your comment. We will review it and come back to you soon."
Well, in this case, the response came 10 minutes later. That's a mere 600 seconds to see the complaint, formulate a response and send it off. And here is the reply:
There are several actions for all brands to consider based on this brilliant bit of consumer interaction:
1. Make a great product to minimise complaints: Charlie Bigham's make bloody good products and this is reflected that 75%+ of all consumer feedback is actually to share positive experiences, not bad ones. (In the case of the consumer complaint above, the mould referred was most likely caused by poor temperature control by the retailer).
2. Make it fast: consumers expect fast feedback. So, if you open up your social media channels as a way to complain, you better be able to respond rapidly. One way that Charlie Bigham's is able to do this with lightening speed is that senior managers get the messages instantly on their iPhones, and are able to reply.
3. Make it personal: the best thing of all about the above response is how personal it it. How refreshing to get a reply that sounds like it has been written by a real person, not a computer. And what a nice offer to suggest that the consumer has "a takeaway on us", confident that Charlie Bigham's will pay for it.
In conclusion, problems happen on every brand, and in today's connected world people have lots of ways to share their frustration. But if you can brand it like Bigham's, you have a chance of turning a complaint into a chance for authentic brand communication.