SM Step Three: Going from Info Intake to Action

When you’re three and your mom tells you not to touch the stove because it’s hot, you touch it anyway.  And then you never touch it again, because in your moment of tactile petulance, the nerves in your fingers sent a lightning fast signal to your brain that said, “HOT HOT HOT!” and your brain told you to move your hand and not ignore your mom the next time. And to go get some Bactine.

            It’s a pretty simple interchange.  And yet, amazingly, the same interchange attempts to happen online every single day between companies and their consumers, and many companies neglect to move their hands off the scalding stoves.

            When I watch something like Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits on Facebook, I often have to laugh.  This is a page that has almost 613,000 “likes” and the wall reads like an ode of praise to garlicky carbohydrate Gods.  It’s full of people who are telling Red Lobster how much they rock because of biscuits.  And I’ll admit, those biscuits are pretty darned tasty.  But the Lobster Nachos made me sicker than a dog the last time I was there, and when I posted it to that page shortly after eating them, someone with admin rights to that page deleted my criticism, illustrating my point that just because you have 613 THOUSAND fans who will click a box on Facebook doesn’t mean you’re actually interacting with them.  It just means they like bread.

            Interaction and Engagement on line is about more than people who like your product.  It’s about the people who hate it or who have had a questionable experience with it.  Yesterday, I talked about the Domino’s social media debacle involving a less than flattering video being released to YouTube and spread about the virtual community.  When the feedback to Domino’s started flowing on a national level, they were able to pick out the most important thing from all of it – their food was terrible.  So what did they do?  Unlike my comment to Red Lobster, the voice of a single person, Domino’s was not able to ignore the mass or intensity of the criticism flowing in.

            I suppose they could have.  10 years ago, they probably would have, as would any major brand.  But social media has caused a shift in the way that products and companies are perceived.  It’s no longer about a company and its product.  Now, through feedback and responsive company actions, the products have bent to the will of the consumer, even before they purchase them. 

            Domino’s threw away their recipes.  Granted, it’s pretty simple to throw out Grandma’s Fruitcake recipe – no one liked it anyway – but when you’re a company with THOUSANDS of stores who have been doing things the same way for years, shaking up even the order you put toppings on a pizza can be a catastrophe.  And, yet, Domino’s went far beyond that – they changed their crusts, their sauces, their cheeses, their produce, their meats.  They shifted their marketing into the hands of their consumers – the very people who said that the food was terrible – and asked for more feedback and customer photos.  We’re talking about a company that reminds you to please rate the success of its new chicken recipe on the top of the boxes.  That’s dedication to receiving feedback that goes beyond a little “How Are We Doing?” card or survey that few customers, if any, will ever fill out.

            And because they were willing to hear the truth and ACT ON IT, Domino’s has gotten a second chance in the marketplace – something that doesn’t come easily.  Those of you who have been through a name change at your community know this lesson all to well.  You might change the name and tweak the brand, but that old nasty reputation still follows you like a mewling cat that demands tuna.  Lock a cat outside to try to ignore it, and it will sit there and get louder and louder until you just finally give in and open the can.

            Only, when it comes to our reputation, it’s not as easy to fix as opening a can of tuna.  It takes deep dedication to the process, open ears, and a willingness to do business differently.  It takes throwing away the recipe we’ve been using for 20 years and pushing for feedback from the people who matter: our customers.  Then it takes the scariest thing of all – Acting on the information.

            After all, if you’re not going to do anything with the feedback, what’s the point in collecting it in the first place?  Until you’ve decided to do something with what your customer’s opinions are, then you’re just wasting your time on Facebook.  It’s about putting the plan in action before you even click your mouse to create a “Like” page.