Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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6/16/2011
11:58 AM
Jamie Pappas
Jamie Pappas
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Is Being Transparent With Customers Overrated?

Take a cue from Domino's when considering how open you should be with customers on the web.

We hear frequently how important transparency is in the realm of social media, particularly when it comes to the businesses we plan to interact with and buy from. As consumers investing in these products and services, we demand that businesses be honest with us about their features and functions, as well as potential pitfalls.

And yet we rarely invest our trust completely in the manufacturers, retailers, and other providers of these goods and services. We value their opinions, but ultimately, we know they have a goal: to sell to us. So we also seek the feedback of others who have purchased and used their products. The first thing we do is search online to see what others who have purchased these products and services have to say. Edelman, with its annual Edelman Trust Barometer survey, introduced us to the notion that people trust people like themselves. While the percentages have dropped slightly in the last couple of years (43% in 2011 compared with 47% in 2009), the fact remains that we as consumers trust complete strangers' opinions of a product or service over those of the actual provider.

Where those opinions come from does matter. In a 2011 research study, Inside The Buy, AMP Agency discovered that 43% of consumers always do research before making a purchase, and a whopping 72% are searching for consumer reviews and feedback before making that purchase decision. More than half of those consumers surveyed are influenced the most by online consumer and product reviews.

As a brand, you can ignore consumer-generated content--or you can enable it. Domino's Pizza got a lot of grief for its Domino's Pizza Turnaround campaign back in 2009. Some said it was being too transparent by basically admitting that its pizza hadn't been up to par. Domino's was putting forth what some considered brand damaging customer quotes, such as "the crust tastes like cardboard," in its marketing materials and videos. Domino's even created a website to syndicate and solicit feedback--both good and bad.

From my perspective, Domino's was right on point. It didn't try to cover honest customer feedback or launch into a bunch of marketing fluff on how great its ingredients are, though that would have been the far easier move. It didn't try to change people's minds without action, or just tell them they were wrong. Instead, it took the feedback and used it to improve its products.

Domino's was smart enough to know that the feedback it was seeing was already rampant on the web and informing purchase decisions. It was smart enough to listen and make changes based on what its customers valued. It was smart enough to admit its mistakes and move forward with improvements. When you consider that Domino's stock traded under $9 a share when the company released that first video, and it now trades around $23, you'd have to conclude that it did the right thing.

What are you doing to help your customers share their feedback and to acknowledge that you're listening?

Jamie is VP of social media at AMP Agency, which inspires brands with integrated digital and experiential marketing, where she leads the development and execution of strategic social media solutions for clients across a range of digital and social channels. Jamie is a founder and member of the board of directors of the Community BackChannel, a community for and by community professionals. She also serves on the board of directors for the Social Media Club, Boston Chapter, and the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. You can connect with her online at her blog, Social Media Musings, or via Twitter @JamiePappas

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara, Nov. 14-17, 2011, and learn how to drive business value with collaboration, with an emphasis on how real customers are using social software to enable more productive workforces and to be more responsive and engaged with customers and business partners. Register today and save 30% off conference passes, or get a free expo pass with priority code CPHCES02. Find out more and register.

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Jamie Pappas
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Jamie Pappas,
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7/25/2011 | 8:42:00 PM
re: Is Being Transparent With Customers Overrated?
Thanks for your comments, Deb! I couldn't agree more - companies should embrace the fact that there is a conversation going on about their brand online. They can choose to ignore it, or better yet - choose to participate in that conversation, understand where their customers and consumers are coming from, and address the real issues that may surface from this honest feedback.

I have said many times (and people often thing I'm a bit crazy when I do) that I love receiving negative comments because they're an opportunity to learn and course correct. Negative comments mean the customer still cares - because they took the time to share the feedback. It provides an opportunity to engage with the customer, understand their point of view further, and provide an opportunity to convert them into an advocate. Sometimes the customer just wants to be heard, sometimes there is an opportunity to share more information with the customer or educate them on the product and how it works for them, and sometimes there's an opportunity to make them into a fan, and sometimes none of this works. Regardless of the outcome, the feedback is always, always an opportunity to acknowledge them and thank them for taking the time to share the feedback and let them know you heard them and value them.
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/23/2011 | 2:02:57 AM
re: Is Being Transparent With Customers Overrated?
I agree that Dominos was smart. I think it won't be long before presence on Facebook is as important as having a Web site. Companies therefore won't be able to hide from negative comments, and would do well to begin to develop a culture where all comments are acknowledged and addressed to the appropriate extent. As with Dominos, those kinds of comments can be leveraged in a very positive, and often cost-effective, way. (Heading of issues that might become a strain on the help desk, using data to develop future versions, etc.)

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Server Market Splitsville
Server Market Splitsville
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