There’s an old marketing adage that says “customers are 10 times as likely to talk about negative experiences as positive interactions.” I learned this in my first semester at college. Yesterday, I witnessed two completely completely different approaches to how a company could resolve this unfortunate but realistic situation.
An MIT Startup has developed a method of building stable, safe, affordable batteries that will provide three days worth of light appliance use for homes lacking connection to an electrical grid. Their initial market is Tanzania, a politically stable country with severely limited power resources. Over lunch, I listened as the company’s Business Development manager queried a Bostonian of Tanzanian descent. We were brought together by a Boston World Partnerships Connector who wanted this woman to reality check the business model and tell us what consumer life in Tanzania is really like.
As her story unfolded we confirmed that there is limited competition in this space. That was good news, obviously. The closest kind of competitor would be the existing recharge stations that service small, rechargeable closed cell batteries (common “D”flashlight batteries, for example). However, our local representative voiced concern that people don’t trust these businesses. There is a pervasive sense that they don’t fully recharge their products. But there’s no way for customers to confirm their suspicions and they are left with few other choices so they live with this wariness.
The problem, of course, is that we can reasonably anticipate distrust of any new company entering the space. Existing skepticism will likely transfer to this new venture, inhibiting initial use and acceptance of the product. That’s a barrier that needs to be overcome. Bottom line: this company has to earn trust.
How are they proposing to do so? By building a charge meter into the batteries. Customers will be able to visibly confirm how much charge is left. Simple solution, really. And a value-add in the sense that the customer can better manage their power usage. This should be a perfectly effective strategy.
As I discussed yesterday, Starbucks has a growing PR problem when it comes to satisfying customer demand for WiFi access. As a conceptual leader in the crowdsourcing movement, they have already developed a portal called “”My Starbucksidea.com.” This is where I’m supposed to be all excited, right? But there’s a problem: Starbucks requires me to register for their feedback system.
I don’t trust them, and I’m already disappointed (which is why I want to give feedback). So when I am asked to register I have this sinking feeling that they are going to add me to yet another email list. And that’s the last thing that I want.
Maybe the Starbucks folks are well aware of that old adage, and fear that opening up the system (ie: not requiring registration) would produce ten times more negative feedback than positive response on their site. What company in their right mind would want to post negative feedback about their products or services? Wouldn’t that make it look like everyone hates them (which wouldn’t be true, of course, but imagine the perception)?
My take: every company should allow negative feedback on their public sites. Why? Because it presents the best opportunity they will ever get for a turnaround. Bear with me an allow me to explain.
Yesterday I was disillusioned with Starbucks (please read the earlier blog if you want the back story). They were losing a customer. But I was still willing to engage with them. I wanted to be heard. If I had been allowed to post without registration I would have stated my case. Then Starbucks could have worked their magic:
And the benefit to their company would be:
There’s another tried but true expression that Starbucks also needs to keep in mind:
“It is much less expensive to keep our existing customers than it is to win new ones.”
To be fair, I don’t really want to pick on Starbucks. I’m fairly satisfied with the product even if they are still in the process of meeting my high expectations for overall experience. And I commend them on leading the way in crowdsourcing by creating a useful and forward-thinking social media platform. Nobody is doing it any better yet, and they are a great case study.
Still, there is always room for improvement. My two cents?
What can your business learn from this?