Smart companies listen to their customers

July 22 2008 by Ellen Roseman

The title says it all, Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000. Author Pete Blackshaw left Procter & Gamble in 1999 to start Planet Feedback, which he later sold to the Nielsen Company.

He’s in the feedback game to make money, he admits, by selling information back to companies that want to improve their performance.

Here’s what he tells companies to do in his new book:

–Make your call centre lines as user-friendly as possible. Give consumers an option to speak to a live representative right away.

–Beef up the consumer profiling process. Include questions about online behaviours, such as: Are you active on Internet forums? If yes, which forums? How often? Do you post text, images, video, audio or all four? Do you blog? Do you have a page on Facebook or MySpace?

–Warm up the website interface. The feedback forms should be worded in a way that makes consumers feel their opinions truly matter to the company.

–Don’t bury the feedback form. It’s usually pushed down to unreachable depths in the website. Invite feedback on the front page. If your customers can’t find an outlet for their complaints, they’ll take them elsewhere and do more damage.

–Make sure your feedback system accommodates how your customers communicate. Make sure your website can accept new formats if consumers want to send a video, forward a URL or provide a personal podcast.

Many companies don’t formally monitor what’s being said about them online. Blackshaw says they have to understand the power of consumer-generated media and shift dollars from paid advertising to their consumer affairs departments.

Reforming consumer affairs to create a more genuine, credible listening infrastructure will require investment, attention, commitment and engagement throughout the organization.

I congratulate everyone who posts comments at this blog for trying to convey a message to corporate Canada. Thanks to you, Bell Blues just passed 500 comments.

I now have a search engine that picks up readers’ comments, as well as my own posts. So, keep those comments coming. Together, we can make companies listen to what we have to tell them. We can make them hear the valuable advice that often goes unheard through conventional channels of communication.


  1. Lior

    Jul 23 2008

    Congratulations to Bell Canada for reaching this impressive milestone! They probably think we’re all crazy and that their systems are just perfect.

  2. Ram

    Jul 25 2008

    Very recently TD charged me a cheque return fee on a pre-authorized payment plan for my credit card. I had money in my bank account, so I was surprised.

    I contacted TD’s (outsourced!) customer support. The support was blunt. Not only did they not provide a reason on why the payment was returned, they did not show any interest in resolving this matter.

    So I contacted my bank, from where the payment must have come, and was told no payment was ever requested! Confused, I walked into a TD branch to resolve this. The branch staff was helpful and the reason for the error was that my bank and account information had been entered incorrectly by TD. They had the charge reversed and the branch staff sent a request to update their systems with my correct bank information.

    I felt this whole matter could have been resolved by phone if TD had better customer service. So I wrote an email to TD’s customer support expressing my concern. TD staff called me to apologize about the confusion and assured me that everything was fixed now.

    A week later, I get a mail from TD that my request to update cannot be processed because I did not attach a statement from my bank. I was livid! Partly because they had the information they requested and partly because TD assured me that the problem was fixed.

    I again called TD customer support and explained the problem again (they were completely unaware). I am now reassured that they have the correct information in their systems, but I’ll only know when a payment goes through.

    I can understand that mistakes do happen. Data could be entered incorrectly and technology is not always 100% reliable. But what upset me in this whole situation was that

    a) customer service could’ve been more helpful.
    b) Once an error was made, someone could have followed through to ensure the problem was fixed. But everyone seems to have been passing the buck and finally it came back to me!

    Financial institutions milk their customers on various service, transaction, advisory fees. Most people grow only richer than they were – swipe their cards more, invest more, withdraw more, etc. In the process, their banks get richer too.

    The least the banks can do is to keep their customers happy. Customers, when they bring so much revenue to the bank, would definitely like to be treated better.

  3. Cynthia

    Jul 27 2008

    I had a recent experience with one of the satellite radio companies here in Canada. I asked for a cancellation, as I wasn’t able to get any reception in my current apartment.

    While waiting for my call to be answered, I heard a message that to activate your radio, go online. I realize most people have computers and internet access today, but if someone is calling in to activate their service, they might get confused thinking it can be done online.

    I finally get a rep, who sounded like I was interrupting his lunch or something. He said he would put in the credit. A month later, I check, no credit.

    I call back, wait, get a somewhat pushy rep who says “why don’t you keep your service?” He also says, “oh the other person didn’t push the button for the credit to go through.” I’m thinking yeah, nice excuse. I thanked him for his time.

    Two days later, I get a credit for 99 per cent of the amount billed.