A while ago in a fit of enthusiasm brought on by my experience with Eurostar I promised to tell you about my experience with the butter. This is a simple tale of how to complete the feedback loop and turn a complainant into a fan.
A change for the worse
For several years I have been buying a particular sort of butter which, despite containing no oils and remaining pure butter, spreads pretty much straight from the fridge without being horribly greasy. Such a product is a huge asset in a house like mine where at any time of the day or night someone can be found eating toast somewhere. Sometimes these people even live here. All hell broke lose last Spring when Fussiest Daughter pointed out that the butter had changed and now, if left out of the fridge for more than a minute or two would turn “vile and slimy” (her words, not mine, but none the less accurate for that). To reinforce the horror of this, the packet now bore the legend “now even softer”.
And so I emailed the company and asked them what had happened. They wrote me a charming letter on very highly quality creamy coloured paper explaining that they had had complaints that the butter was sometimes a little harder than people liked when it came out of the fridge. They sent me three shiny pound coins and hoped I would continue to buy their product (which, rather than incur the wrath of the Daughter, I didn’t).
Buttering me up – or just common sense?
Several months later I received another letter and this is what it said,”Since the launch of the new product, and due to feedback we have received from you and other customers, we have sought to improve Kerrygold Softer Butter even further. Our aim has been to maintain the softer consistency we have achieved when used from the fridge, but to make sure it stays firmer longer if it needs to be kept out of the fridge during mealtimes. We are now delighted to announce an further improvement – our new butter is still significantly more spreadable from the fridge than our original formula, but is firmer for longer when left at room temperature….Once again thank you ever so much for your feedback.”
Now I am happy. They even sent me a voucher so I could try their new product for free. And Fussiest Daughter is happy too as are all the other people who eat toast in our house at mealtimes and toast-times.
Wouldn’t it be nice if other organisations could treat our comments and complaints like this? How common is it to get a letter from the NHS or the bank saying “Remember when you complained a while ago? Well although we explained why we could not do anything then, we have thought about what you said and decided to try to do things a bit differently and take account of what you said. Hope you agree and here is a few quid as a gesture of goodwill.”
Given decent complaint management software and a properly maintained database, this should be easy. In these days of data protection and difficulty in collecting customer details, complainants freely offer theirs and turning them from critics to advocates remains the great goal of complaint departments.
STOP PRESS: someone known to MAC has discovered a secret department of BT that can actually sort problems out. He had been wrongly disconnected and faced an enormous struggle to contact BT customer services since the first prerequisite for dialogue was an existing telephone number. On giving his old one, he was told that number was no longer in service and was disconnected. Heroically he persisted and eventually a unit so secret that it has no address or telephone number on its writing paper – he thinks it is in Doncaster – sorted his problem out – block of flats, someone leaving, asks for disconnection, wrong flat disconnected.