Ask customers to point out your 'warts,' then show 'em to the world.

Author:Lusky, Mark

As social media drives truthtelling and transparency to new levels, it also can encourage bold companies to ask customers to point out problems, then let the world know about them.

In a world where shareholder and stakeholder confidence often reigns supreme, this can sound like heresy. The "never let them see you sweat" obsession with promoting the positive and attempting to hide the negative has ruled the roost for decades.

Plus, many argue, customers are plenty quick to express dissatisfaction--so further encouragement to do so is unnecessary. In fact, while customers will readily complain about certain issues, many are unable or unwilling to confront other concerns without an invitation. In turn, resentment builds and in many cases leads to a relationship-ending event.

Slowly, companies are learning that this new paradigm of "revealing all" plays well to most audiences from baby boomers to millennials. Just as this nation is prone to forgive people who admit errors and express a willingness to improve, corporate America is discovering similar sentiments.

In contrast, companies attempting to hide problems subsequently uncovered via social or mainstream media are paying a higher price in the court of public opinion.

So, what are some ways label-related companies can effectively encourage and share problem-related feedback?

  1. Ask specifically for it, with details. Many companies conduct surveys and provide other forums for customer feedback. However, most don't actively encourage "wart related" feedback, or promote more in-depth feedback. This can be critical. For example, a restaurant survey that requests a server rating may provide incomplete or inaccurate information. If someone rates a server negatively, it's important to determine precisely why. Customers may point to an easy target like the server, even though food quality, a slow kitchen, or other issues could be to blame.

    An innocent employee may be spared as details and encouraging feedback help uncover the real problem--and solution.

  2. Share problem/solution updates publicly. Posting information tied to dramatic and/or common concerns while seeking a solution can be reassuring to customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Obviously, this shows that the company is committed to and working proactively on a resolution--which is a big deal with most consumers.

    This can run headlong into the long-prevalent argument that showing one's weaknesses provides great fodder for the...

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