Your Worst Customer is Your Best Friend

Huh? How can that be? Well, according to the book What Would Google Do?, in a “google universe” most information is both public and transparent. That means you can save a lot of anxious moments down the road (not to mention revenues) by knowing your worst customers and finding out what they have to say. Imagine a world where customers could not pan your products or services with a few clicks of the mouse. A world where bad product and service reviews could not be easily tracked or discovered. In that world, negative news would spread slowly and stealthily by word of mouth and, by the time you found out about it, it could be too late (and infinitely more expensive) to fix.

What’s the lesson here? Leverage the Web and social media tools to get as much feedback from your customers as possible. Give your worst customers the opportunity to speak up quickly and easily so you can fix their grievances in the same fashion. Here is author Jeff Jarvis’s description of a restaurant run according to Googlethink. Once you read it, ask yourself how it applies to your business. What can you do to find your worst customers/best friends?

“What would a restaurant run according to Googlethink look like—other than being decorated in garish primary colors with a neon sign, big balls for seats, and Fruit Loops and M&Ms on every table?

Imagine instead a restaurant—any restaurant—run on openness and data. Say we pick up the menu and see exactly how many people had ordered each dish. Would that influence our choice? It would help us discover the restaurant’s true specialties (the reason people come here must be the crab cakes) and perhaps make new discoveries (the 400 people who ordered the Hawaiian pizza last month can’t all be wrong??? Can they?).

If a restaurateur were true to Googlethink, she would hunger for more data. Why not survey diners at the end of the meal? That sounds frightening—what if they hate the calamari?—but there’s little to fear. If the squid is bad and the chef can hear her customers say so, she’ll 86 it off the menu and make something better. Everybody wins. She’ll also impress customers with her eagerness to hear their opinions. This beats wandering around the tables, randomly asking how things are (as a diner, I find it awkward and ungracious to complain; it’s like carping about Grandmother’s cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving). Why not just ask the question and give everyone the means to answer? Your worst diner could be your best friend.”

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