You’ve Earned Loyalty
By John Hennessy
According to AOL SVP of Brand Management Russ Natoce, speaking at the Conference Board brand conference, AOL was able to get 40 percent of its customers in the brand rejecter customer group to stop badmouthing the company and actually reverse their position.
Part of this opinion turnaround came from making changes based on AOL communicating with 15,000 of its customers to understand how they use the AOL service. Some customers were even visited to see how they used the web as part of their lives. Extra attention was given to superusers who are almost constantly online.
“Like any big company, you sometimes lose your way,” Mr. Natoce told the audience. “We had a lack of compass. There was lots of stuff that didn’t make sense to the customer.”
Safety and security features gained prominence. The ubiquitous free AOL CDs were discontinued. Nearly 1,500 employees were trained to be AOL ambassadors both online and off.
Moderator’s Comment: What are other companies doing to identify, understand and win back badmouthers?
Most businesses likely have a group of customers, larger than anyone wants to admit, who are reluctant or even resentful customers. These critical customers
are ignored and tolerated, but seldom listened to.
AOL’s experience shows there is value in learning from them. That value extends to creating a superior experience for all customers.
The happy ending in this example also illustrates the willingness of customers to alter their opinion of a business based on concrete changes to bothersome
business practices. Don’t write off customer criticism. Capture it, act on it and profit from it. –
George Anderson – Moderator