A lesson in consumer relations for the business and the customer.
A few weeks ago I bought a package of Sea Salt Dill and Olive Oil flavored Triscuit crackers. I don’t often buy this kind of snack, but something about this new flavor offering was appealing.
I had eaten about one third of the carton when I reached in for another cracker and withdrew something that was definitely not a Triscuit. Out came a heavy, green square of what appeared to be a block of herbs packed into about a three-square-inch briquette. It looked a bit like a tiny block of alfalfa hay you might feed a guinea pig and smelled strongly of olive oil.
Since I didn’t know exactly what this was and since there were a number of food product recalls in recent days, I set the box aside and sought out the product’s Twitter page. I really had no idea whether there would be an account for Triscuits or by the parent company, Mondelez International, who also operates a dozen or so other food productions.
After a few moments of searching I found it. There was, indeed, an official Twitter page specifically for the snack and I sent a private message, including a photo of what I’d found.
I tapped out a message, struggling to fit my concerns into the 140 character format, and attached the photo. What I wrote was not, “Wow, you guys sell crap look what I found,” but instead, “Excuse me, I just want to make sure the product is safe.”
My approach went a long way. Within an hour or so, I got a direct response to my inquiry, apologizing for the inconvenience and asking for more information.
The responder for the @TheRealTriscuit explained that what I’d found was some of the seasoning all clumped together. The representative then asked for the UPC and expiration dates so they could identify the batch from which the box originated.
In the meantime, I had found a second herb briquette and sent them photos of the new clump as well as the other information from the box. The responder thanked me and gave me every assurance the problem would be reported and corrected in future production.
Remember that my intent was not to solicit some sort of compensation. I understand when manufacturing processes have mistakes. My main concern was whether the snack was still safe to eat.
Still, the Twitter responder asked for my address and, about a week later, I received a very well written “thank you” letter and a coupon good towards any of the company’s products, up to $5. So for both consumer and the seller, what are the lessons to be learned from this experience?
My situation clearly demonstrates a consumer can let a company know when a product or service doesn’t meet expectations. If you show helpful concern rather than a finger wagging, confrontational mentality, they will be far more willing to help you and find a solution that is mutually beneficial.
By asking about the safety of the product, I made it clear that I like the product and want to continue using it. I was more interested in informing the producer of a flaw in the process so it wouldn’t happen again.
From the business perspective, it’s important to remember that people talk and share their product experiences in person and online. In my case, even before I got the coupon, I had already been telling friends and family how they (the company) responded right away to my inquiry. The positive customer experience I had helped to secure brand loyalty organically.
One of today’s marketing mistakes is being elusive to customers. No matter what kind of company you have, there are always opportunities to make a better impression on customers. The company created with my experience a level of brand loyalty simply by being responsive and courteous to my situation. It was a small matter, but handled as if it was the most important issue of the day to them.
You should also provide multiple contact options including, but not limited to, phone, email, online and on social media. But even more importantly, you should respond as soon as possible.
So the next time you have a negative experience with a product or service, let them know … politely and thoughtfully. Hopefully the business operators will listen and make an effort to improve things so that everyone benefits from your effort.
Author’s Note: This incident in no way diminishes my taste for the Triscuit brand and I highly recommend all of their products, particularly this one! Thanks again to the folks at Mondelez for being so helpful!