” Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” | Bill Gates
Before I begin this post, let me state one thing for the record: I love Netflix. I love Netflix to the point I no longer see a need for cable. I have watched just about every documentary in their stash. I love that Netflix knows my viewing habits, likes and dislikes. I love that Netflix knows to gently steer me toward my (apparent) interest in independent romantic comedies with a strong female lead. I love Netflix.
Having said that…we’re all going to learn something today, courtesy of Netflix.
A few days ago I settled in for an evening movie, and loaded Netflix to discover a new interface. It was a bit clunky. It scrolled funny. To be frank, it wasn’t great…or good, even. At first I blamed my computer. But after a few minutes of tinkering, I begin to realize…ick. This change was intentional.
Out of sheer curiosity, I headed to the interwebs to see what the masses had to say about this abrupt change to an otherwise much-loved service. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to step into the middle a firestorm – and what I expect will either become a shining example of hearing (and adapting) to input and feedback fromÂ a loyal and loving customer fanbase or a case study that will go down in the hall of fame as a benchmark in customer disservice.
A few comments pulled from the Netflix blog:
“I would have commented on the Netflix blog, but the comment limit appears to have been reached (at 5,000).. I guess I am not the only one having issues. I read a few pages of the comments. The only one that wasn’t wholly negative about the change said that they “will eventually get used to it” – not exactly a glowing endorsement.”
“Netflix, you have so many great ideas, and your old interface was amazing. This new layout makes me feel like I am shopping at a discount Netflix superstore.”
“I for one never asked for any update. This is just like another website where you push consumers the direction you want them to go. If Netflix likes the new design and blatantly ignores its customers than I’m going back to cable.”
“Don’t you ever consult your users before you do these things? All that coding effort completely wasted. Your inability to think through the impact of design changes and talk to your early adopters before implementing them is stunningly amazing.”
For the purpose of this post, the design of the interface is really of no consequence. Love it. Hate it. Turn up your nose at it. What intrigues me about this situation is the fact that a very vocal group of users have risen up to voice their opinion – and Netflix seems to have no interest in hearing – or talking – to them.
Netflix VP of Corporate Communications, Steve Swasey did, however, have this to say in an interview: “We’ve tested this extensively, we know the vast, vast majority of people like this. It’s new, it’s easier, it’s cleaner.” He also went on to state that they were “absolutely” keeping the new interface. “We made it and tested it and researched it and tried it out and everywhere we tried it, it had a better reception. Otherwise we wouldn’t have made the change.”
“Change can be unsettling for some, but not the vast majority,” Swasey said.
Meanwhile, in another corner of the interwebs (the Netflix Official Blog) 5000+ vocal fans and users beg to differ.
The Learning Opportunity
Three things we can learn from Netflix…
1. Your customers and your fans are your brand’s greatest asset. Talk to them.Â They have opinions. They have thoughts. They have things to say and input to share. And it doesn’t always take a fancy study or focus group to tap into their minds, needs, wants and thoughts. Most of the time all you have to do is ask. THEN LISTEN.
The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.â€¨ | John Russell
2. If you ask them, they will tell you. Don’t assume you know what they want. Don’t tell them what they want. Ask them what you can do for them…then do it.
Don’t try to tell the customer what he wants. If you want to be smart, be smart in the shower. Then get out, go to work and serve the customer! | Gene Buckley, President Sikorsky Aircraft
3. The ostrich approach may work well for birds, but not so much for brands. It’s okay to make mistakes. Nobody expects you to be perfect. But they do expect you to be responsive, communicative and fix things when they go wrong.
Customers don’t expect you to be perfect.â€¨They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. | Donald Porter, VP British Airways
This is a guest post from Shannon Kohn, one of our rockstar community managers.
Those of you who know me are well aware of the fact that, even though I adore my role as a Community Manager here at Brains on Fire, my passion is food.Â Writing about it.Â Reading about it.Â Looking at it.Â Eating LOTS of it.
That being said (and me being human), I am a fan of many food-related pages on Facebook.Â Last week I had the opportunity to watch, from my food-loving perch, two different dramas unfold on two of these fan pages.Â I also had the chance to witness, through my Community Manager goggles, how the folks in charge of those pages dealt with a potentially brand-harmful situation and responded (or didn’t respond) to negativity from fans.
I admit I stopped to say a special prayer for the Community Manager of the Fresh Express Salads Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FreshExpressSalads) early last week.Â A coupon promotion that launched last Monday from the page was not working for all the folks who tried to access it.Â Though most fans simply posted comments to the “wall” to let the powers that be know that they couldn’t print the coupon, some fans were down-right angry (or as one poster self-proclaimed, “ILL”).Â There were many, many posts.Â But, you know what?Â The Fresh Express folks were THERE for the duration—replying to comments, apologizing for confusion, assuring fans they were trying to remedy the problem through (almost) hourly wall posts.Â Fresh Express understands that community is about the two-way conversation.Â They appreciate their fans.Â FRESH EXPRESS GETS IT.
Now, compare that great example of Community Management with the week-long drama over on Bon AppÃ©tit Magazine’s Facebook page that had folks threatening to throw away the current issue of the magazine or even cancel their subscriptions altogether.
What could cause so much drama, you ask?Â After years and years and cover after cover of beautiful, delectable, eat-the-photo food, Bon AppÃ©tit decided to put a celebrity on the cover of their June 2011 issue.Â You can check out some of the fan comments and criticisms here:Â https://www.facebook.com/bonappetitmag (you’ll have to scroll back a bit, it’s a pretty post-heavy page).Â To be fair, there are some non-negative posts from fans mixed in, but they are the minority.
The foodie in me knows not to turn up the heat on a pot, cover the lid, and walk away.Â The Community Manager in me saw that very thing happen, metaphorically, on Bon AppÃ©tit Magazine’s Facebook page.Â Where were the replies to the many fan comments, negative or otherwise?Â Where was the two-way conversation?Â Neither of those proven ways to connect with fans were anywhere to be found.
Where was the assurance to Bon AppÃ©tit fans that they were being heard and that their concerns were valid?Â My answer came in a single wall post from the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Adam Rapoport.Â Gratitude was given for the abundance of fan comments.Â Assurance was delivered that Bon AppÃ©tit would not be turning into a celebrity magazine.
Mr. Rapoport also committed to checking back in with fans again at a later date.Â He kept his promise with a follow-up post later proclaiming, “We love reading your comments—all of them, really! We think the best magazines are a conversation between the readers and the editors, so we’ll continue to check in with you as Bon Appetit evolves. Thanks.”Â Conversation? Wow.Â Check in?Â Ugh.
Conversation obviously means something different to the folks at Bon AppÃ©tit, as evidenced by the fact that they have yet to reply to any comments (even the ones prompted by Mr. Rapoport’s own posts) or engage with their fans on any level other than the obvious “here’s what we have to say, you need to listen” spin speak.
So, what can YOU take away from this Tale of Two Facebook Pages?
1.)Â Â Copping to a mistake or issue, and authentically apologizing for it IN FRONT of your audience makes you human—and your brand approachable.
2.)Â Â If you REALLY want to touch a nerve with die-hard fans of any brand, change something that’s comfortable to them and tell them they have no choice but to like it.Â Yikes.
3.)Â Â One or two posts, however tactfully worded (even if it is delivered straight from the powers that be), do not a conversation make.
I recently found an article with a great title:
“Treating Customers as Online Equals Boosts Business, Research Finds” (1)
Of course, I had to read it. And I chuckled a little bit when I read the concluding statements:
“The team adds that one lesson company managers must learn if they are to improve customer relations and sales through social-media applications is that they must play by rules of social media and treat customers as equals.”
I thought to myself, ‘Of course it does! Isn’t that obvious?”
If you stop and think about it, though, the mindset isn’t obvious. It is actually very subtle, and it is extremely difficult to fight.
And that’s probably why it needs to be studied and clearly stated. How is it not obvious, you ask?
The research suggests that many companies are stuck in the mindset of marketing at their customers and that they are carrying that habit into new mediums and new technologies.
Even businesses with the best intentions, who want to offer amazing products and services to people, can be blinded by revenue reports. There’s no question we have to make money and we want to be successful, but the subtle mindset shift comes when we allow that pursuit to shift our view of our customers, seeing them less and less as equal human beings on the other end of a relationship and more as a lifeless stepping stone to a bigger bottom line. Which is why we constantly remind our selves that it’s all about the people.
The article reminded me of our company’s credo (which Robbin had everyone memorize last year):
(1) – You can read the original article, “Treating Customers as Online Equals Boosts Business, Research Finds,” here.
Whenever I hearÂ people talk about how to view and treat customers, a memory comes to mind that was burned into my head: In my first few weeks at Brains on Fire, I remember Robbin leaning back from her desk, looking at me, and almost yelling, “Eric, I’m going to scream if I hear the words ‘Cost Per Acquisition’ one more time – these are REAL PEOPLE, not just numbers!”
I was reminded of that story the other night I went out to hear local band Andy Lehman and the Night Moves. Andy didn’t say much during the show, but the one thing he did say really caught me off-guard – and made Robbin’s words echo in my ears.
“I think a lot of bands have it backwards these days – somehow they get to a place where they think that the audience should thank them for playing. Well, it’s the other way around. I want you to know that it’s a privilege for me to be here – for you to take time out of your night to come and hear us play a few songs, and we’d be honored if you joined us on our journey.”
Andy didn’t look at the crowd and calculate his estimated takeaway in CD sales – he looked at the crowd and saw real people who were there to hear good music – people he could inspire. And he thanked them for giving him that opportunity.
No matter how great or unique you think your agency, company or product is, it is still a privilege to serve the customer who has chosen you out of a sea of unlimited choices and given you the opportunity to rock their world. And the opportunity to rock your customer’s world should never go to waste.
Because if you’re not, you’re going to get called out for it.
And thanks to our friends at Full Circle PR, this is the part where I’m gonna talk about the recent Advertising Age piece where Taco Bell and their agency – DraftFCB – launched a new campaign to paint Taco Bell as a place where you can eat and lose weight. Yep, you read that right.
The spots center around “Christine Dougherty, a ‘real-life Taco Bell customer’ who lost 54 pounds over a two-year period by replacing her usual fast-food lunch or dinner with an item from Taco Bell’s Fresco menu.
To make a long story short, according to the article:
Prior to launch, posts were 73% positive, putting it ahead of beloved chains like Subway, Wendy’s and Domino’s. Words associated with the brand online were “love,” “delicious,” and “favorite.” Postings are now 67% positive, putting Taco Bell behind White Castle, Blimpie and Arby’s, which rank among the category’s lower tier. Now three of the words most closely associated with Taco Bell and its campaign have been “fat,” “stop,” and “joke.” BrandIndex shows the chain’s buzz and quality ratings falling among women aged 18-34 since the beginning of December, and particularly since Christmas.
So basically Taco Bell is trying to jump on the “healthy eating” bandwagon and it’s backfiring. Big time. Why? Because they aren’t being true to who they are. It’s Mexican fast food, people. Taco Bell and healthy aren’t two words that I ever use together, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one. Why do companies have a need to try and be everything to everyone? Do they get bored? I dunno. But when we embrace who we are and what we stand for at a deep level, then you’re drawing lines in the sand. Then you’re speaking to a specific group of kindred spirits. But when you try to be everything to everyone, you’re actually hurting yourself because now you’re really nothing to nobody.
And that’s never a good place to be.