Customer complaints used to be something that businesses wanted to deal with privately. But a growing number of companies have chosen to publicize customer complaints as a way to differentiate themselves or respond to the criticism.
Most recently, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema made public a voicemail left by an irate (and perhaps slightly intoxicated) customer by putting it in a new anti-texting PSA (warning: R-rated language) airing at the theater.
Alamo Drafthouse posted the meandering voicemail on the company‘s blog this week and it became a viral hit, generating thousands of comments on the blog and more than a million hits on YouTube. CNN‘s Anderson Cooper even called Alamo’s CEO Tim League a “great American hero” for the theater’s zero tolerance of texting.
The decision is pretty daring, using an angry customer’s ranting to highlight how the company differentiates itself from other cinemas. A quirky chain of nine theaters mostly in Texas, the Alamo Drafthouse offers customers chef-prepared dinners and a beverage with their side of cinema. The theaters show big movie releases, but also offer a wide array of independent movies and campy events such as Grease sing-alongs.
Pizza delivery chain Domino’s, known more for their convenience than their quality, used customer complaints of crust tasting like cardboard in a high profile advertising campaign to promote improvements to the pizza. The company then delivered the reformulated pizzas to the homes of customers who had harshly criticized Domino’s during a focus group and filmed their favorable reactions to the new pizzas.
Spotlighting customer complaints is a bold move, but the public appreciates candor and can reward companies who take the risk. Domino’s same-store sales in the US grew 10 percent in 2010 following the campaign. Similarly, Alamo’s plans to open in new markets may be accelerated by a national splash of recognition.