Month: April 2010

The cost of not listening

Posted by – April 1, 2010

I quit smoking a couple years back with the aid of nicotine lozenges. I had tried countless different ways to quit, but for me, the lozenges (and the right attitude) were what finally worked. Yet, as the proverbial joke goes, I became addicted to the damn lozenges. I was able to transition from the 4mg to the 2mg (the lowest dosage), but struggled mightily to stop using them all together.

I tried mint flavored candy, but it wouldn’t last as long, wasn’t the same shape, and didn’t have the same minty taste. I tried chewing on gum, straws, fingernails, etc. I tried going cold turkey. At one point, I got down to one lozenge per day, but that one lozenge was a huge security blanket.

After doing this for *too long to admit*, I googled a bit and found others in the same situation. And as I read their stories, I realized that there might be an untapped market. I found the website of the company which produced the lozenges and wrote them a nice email. I explained how grateful I was for their product, but that I was having a difficult time weaning myself off it. I asked if they had ever considered a 1mg option, or even a 0mg option with the same flavor, texture, size, etc. I suggested that if they could sell the 0mg option for a cheaper price, they might have an opportunity to create a long(er) lasting relationship with their customer base.

Now, I didn’t know the first thing about the inner-workings of their business, or what it takes to produce those lozenges, but I figured it was worth a shot. Who knows, maybe I would lead them to a gold mine of untapped revenue. I figured, worst case scenario, I’d get a response saying “We’ve explored that option, but it wasn’t feasible.”

After a few days, I received their response. I’ve edited it to protect their identity:

Dear Mr. Rubin,

We have received your e-mail message regarding our product.

Thank you for notifying us of your experience with a XYZ product. While we expect that the majority of people will be able to use XYZ with no problems, we realize that individual reactions are always possible.

Since you encountered a problem while using XYZ, we recommend that you contact your doctor or other healthcare professional.

So that we can collect additional information about your experience, please call one of our Representatives at 1-888-888-8888 weekdays between 9:00 am and 4:30 pm Eastern Time. To help us expedite this process, we ask that you also have the product in hand at the time of your call. There is important coding information that will enable us to thoroughly investigate your complaint.

All of this additional information is valuable and enables us to continue to monitor and evaluate the safety of our products.

So that we may better assist you, please refer to the case number below when you call. We appreciate your bringing this matter to our attention and look forward to hearing from you again soon. If we may be of further assistance, please call us weekdays at 1-888-888-8888.

Sincerely,

Jane Doe
[company name]

Uh, what? I understand the need to for a large corporation to protect themselves from any legal issues — this was a nicotine product after all, but my email was not a complaint, nor a cry for help. I was merely a loyal customer presenting a potential business opportunity. There MUST have been a better way of acknowledging the positive intent of my email, without supporting the extended usage of their product. But to completely ignore my message and reply with a canned response? C’mon, I don’t care what size company you have, those days are over. Not only did they alienate a customer, but they may have missed out on a million dollar idea.

Or maybe they were trying to alienate me and it was a brilliant strategy to get me to stop using their product. If so, it worked.

Regardless, I was frustrated enough, that I decided to give them a taste of their own medicine:

Thank you for efficiently selecting a canned response. Reading emails and responding appropriately is not a cost-effective way to run a company. I applaud your agility and shall follow suit.

> scanning your message…
> picking canned response…

Dear customer communications,

Thank you for passing along your contact information. Unfortunately, we are not hiring at this time.

To apply for positions in the future, please use the following reference code: NA1MB1LA

Sincerely,
Adam Rubin