Consumer feedback too often falls through the cracks. Emails get caught in spam filters, letters languish in a corporate mailroom for months, and phone calls take you straight to a robo-caller. As a customer, it’s frustrating to feel like you’re not being heard. I should know–I have Planters on speed dial.
In all seriousness, it’s a real treat for customers when they get a direct, thoughtful response to a comment, question, or complaint. It doesn’t happen often nowadays, and a good answer can turn the asker into a loyal customer for life. Check out what happened when UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s got this letter from one of their younger patrons:
First off, I’ve gotta say… Lily is right on the money with her insightful question. Look at this nonsense:
I’ve never seen anything that looks more like a giraffe in my life, and I’ve seen actual giraffes.
Either way, though, Sainsbury’s Customer Manager Chris King knocked it out of the park with his response. Let’s break down the goodness by paragraph.
First, he thanked Lily kindly for her letter, and then directly praised her suggestion and made it clear that he understood where she was coming from. That’s good practice for feedback of any caliber, whether it comes from a toddler or a CEO.
Second, he gave her an honest answer to her question–no waffling from Chris!–and even threw in a little humor by calling the inventor of tiger bread ‘maybe a bit silly.’ Extra props for this being appropriate humor for a three-and-a-half year old. In fact, every inch of this letter is customized for Lily–just look at the word choices! It’s super easy-to-read vocabulary (but definitely not baby talk), and he addresses her–not her parents–throughout the whole letter.
Next, he offers her a present! It’s hard to go wrong with a present, unless that present is spiders. And the nice thing about offering a Sainsbury’s gift card, from a company perspective, is that it all but ensures the customer’s return to the store. The tone of this paragraph remains unfailingly sweet, framing the card as a reward for Lily’s feedback and explaining to her how she can use it with help from an adult. This is sure to make her feel special and appreciated as a Sainsbury’s customer–which is, once again, a great way to get her and her family to return.
Last, Chris signs off the letter, and includes my favorite part of this message as his signature: ‘Chris King (age 27 & ⅓)’. By following Lily’s lead on including his age, Chris makes it clear that he thinks of Lily as an equal, toddler though she may be. (And mirroring a detail that small shows that he put tremendous care into crafting his response!) From the very beginning, the tone of Chris’s letter is completely respectful without being stuffy: he considers her idea carefully, like it came from a trusted peer, and maintains a conversational, approachable, friendly tone that’s the total opposite of stiff.
You may think that Customer Manager Chris King can’t get any better at responding to customer feedback. WRONG!
That’s right, folks… Sainsbury’s actually implemented Lily’s feedback, which means they hit the double whammy of taking constructive criticism: they responded graciously AND executed actual change. Now THAT’s what I call damn good communication!
Good on you, Sainsbury’s: thanks to your measured response to Lily’s letter, you now have a bunch of delighted customers–in addition to zoologically accurate bread.