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Getting It All Out There
As a small business owner, I know that it can be daunting (to say the least) to let negative feedback be out there in the world. However, there is a trend in companies that allow—and even welcome—negative feedback. While it seems as though there would be many things that would be undesirable about allowing unhappy reactions to be posted to your website or promoting bad reviews of products, there are some benefits.
Before getting into reasons why you might want to take some of the tricks companies like Domino's Pizza are using (and before giving tips on how you can scale these down to fit your small business), it's important to take a look at what Domino's has been doing.
In the image to the right, you'll notice that the words on the billboard are not praising the company, instead, they are critiquing it. It says "Quality of ingredients still lacking in areas. For example, fresh jalapeños instead of canned would be better (esp. on Fiery Hawaiian)." Some companies might shirk away from sharing such commentary with the general public. Domino's shares it live, as the comments come in from customers, through a feed in Times Square. Commenters can then later view the feed on the company's website.
What makes this kind of honesty great is that it gives customers the chance to see that Domino's is comfortable enough with their products and service that they believe their business will outshine the negative feedback. Additionally, the transparency involved in this action demonstrates to others that the company does not feel the need to hide things from consumers. Finally, by making things public, the company gains a greater incentive to be accountable for improving the quality of their products. For example, if many people wrote in advising the company to use fresh rather than canned jalapeños, then the pressure would be on to make this quality improvement.
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1. Exude Confidence
While the vast majority of startups and small businesses do not have the means to rent out a billboard in the middle of Times Square to demonstrate to the world just how great their products or services are, by making all feedback public to potential clients and customers, you can demonstrate confidence. By demonstrating confidence in your products or services, you can show prospectives that you're not afraid of a little bad publicity.
Naturally, there's one caveat to this. You must take time to publicly respond to criticisms and comments. For example, it would be smart to say "I'm sorry you had that experience. We would like for your future experience to be more positive. We'll look into this matter." (Or something that fits the criticism.) By the same token, you'll want to be sure to thank people for positive feedback—even if you might not feel it necessary to do so. This demonstrates to others that you value feedback, and that you are paying attention to what your customers say.
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2. Transparency Shines
In a world filled with uncertainty, the people who are transparent in their actions will stand out. When you are transparent with your customers and your potential customers, then you are more respected, and you will attract business. Why? Because prospects are more likely to trust those who they feel are being honest and who keep no secrets from others. If you're transparent with others, not only will you boost your chances of success, but you will also improve your reputation as someone who is always forthcoming with others.
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3. Responsive to Concerns
One of the benefits of transparency and confidence is that you can also use those two features of being open with clients in order to demonstrate that you are responsive to concerns. For example, a couple of years ago, I reviewed a project management program that was not very user-friendly. Rather than refusing to acknowledge that review, the company took the review, and they created a program that is extremely user-friendly (in fact, if I ran a company that needed such software, I'd use theirs). This made me feel good about the company. Likewise, instead of hiding when a client gives you negative feedback, if you respond to the concerns and look at valid criticisms, you will only improve your business.
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4. Staying Accountable
Let's imagine for a moment that you've received several comments expressing that the front-office worker is a bit curt with customers and clients who come in. Now, when this is visible on your blog, website or social media page, you are being held accountable to this. If there are enough comments about this, you may wish to have a talk with the front-office worker—or replace him or her. If you have complaints about your pizza, then by having these complaints appear publicly, it gives you a sense of accountability. If regular complaints are a problem, then you need to respond—by having a better product!
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5. Learning From Others
When complaints and positive comments alike have been made public, then you can learn from other companies. This is especially important for startups where you're doing marketing research and would like to get a leg up on the competition. You can see what customers want and make a plan to deliver. For example, a local pizzeria might want to watch to see what people are saying about Domino's—that way, they could capitalize on the criticisms that are being made.
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By publicly listing compliments and criticisms, you can reap many benefits. I'm sure there are other things you can learn from Domino's bold move.
Have you tried this in your business? Has it worked for you? Are you thinking about opening yourself up to public criticism?
- Domino's Pizza http://www.dominos.com/
- Screenshot courtesy of Ronda Roberts, taken from dominos.com promotional video for illustrative purposes only.
- Cearley, M. "Why I Love Domino's Times Square Billboard (& What to Learn) The Eleventh Screen July 26, 2011. 11thscreen.com/2011/07/why-i-love-dominos-times-square-billboard-what-to-learn
- Whitehead, J. "Domino's Takes Social Media Customer Feedback to the Next Level." The Wall. July 28, 2011. wallblog.co.uk/2011/07/28/dominos-takes-social-media-customer-feedback-to-the-next-level