Listening to Others

In today's consumer world, leaders and marketers are learning a simple lesson the hard way: the customer is always right. In the past month or so, we've seen two debacles regarding organizations who made the mistake of undermining the voice of the consumer. Recently, Tropicana made the choice to rebrand it's packaging. The look took on a more youthful aesthetic, mimicking what reminded me of the new Pepsi design. The result: a flood of letters and messages demanding that Tropicana go back to the original carton.

What's probably cost Tropicana hundreds of thousands of dollars could have easily been avoided if they simply took into consideration the voice of the customer first. Similarly, Facebook received a similar backlash the other week when they updated their Terms of Service. Users concerned over the privacy and use of their content made their sentiments loud and clear. They created a Facebook group bashing the new ToS that quickly rose to over 88,000 members in a few days. Additionally, negative feedback was displayed across the Twittersphere and Blogosphere, which ultimately led Mark Zuckerberg to reverse the new terms.

While Tropicana and Facebook were wise enough to act quickly in response to the customer feedback, it could have all been avoided. Companies today need to treat their customers like employees, power focus groups, marketers, evangelists, and sales people. It is only when businesses start thinking of the customers as part of their community that they'll avoid this common pitfalls of market research gone wrong.

Luckily for Facebook users, this is finally sinking in for Zuckerberg and his team. After last week's debacle, they've created a Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities (It's reminiscent of the Jet Blue Passenger Bill of Rights that was created after the passenger fiasco on the runway in 2007). Now, it's up to Facebook users to help determine what features and terms Facebook will implement in the future. Can other company's follow Facebook's lead or does it take a twenty-something CEO to execute?

Bottom line: If leaders today want to keep up with the times we live in, they're going to do the following:

  1. Listen to customers
  2. Give them what they want
  3. Use social technologies to facilitate conversations between company and consumer
Cailin Darcy