One Path to Building Long-Term Relationships: Constructive Feedback

constructive feedbackIt’s easy to be open to feedback when people are singing your praises, but what about when they have something very different to convey?

Over the years, one aspect of the Amway Corporation that I have come to admire is its consistent receptiveness to constructive feedback.

They sincerely desire feedback, no matter what form it takes. That’s one of the first points we heard from the leaders of World Wide Group, the training-and-development organization that is one of Amway’s Approved Providers. If a product doesn’t meet your satisfaction, we were told from the start, simply return it and get a refund or replacement.

Over time, the corporation has lived up to that reputation. As a result, with each attentive and sincere interaction building on the last, I continue giving them constructive feedback.

A few months ago, Amway ran out of a promotional product and they sent an auto-generated email saying, in effect, “Sorry, we ran out and you won’t be charged for it.” I responded with an email whose essence was, “Of course you won’t be charging me. It was a free product!” I went on to suggest how Amway could solve the situation by offering an alternative product, because it was not cool that they had a promotion but didn’t deliver on it.

To its credit, Amway took my suggestion, provided another product and made the situation right. There’s not a much more powerful way for a company to tell someone that they appreciate a customer’s input than putting an idea into action.

As a business owner myself, I appreciate feedback given in that spirit, so I am glad to extend that to other businesses. One case that recently arose involved a local restaurant.

Last weekend, my daughter’s basketball team won its park district championship and the head coach (a.k.a. my husband) decided that a fitting way to cap the season was to celebrate with dinner at a newly opened restaurant in town.

Not just our family, but all of the players’ families. We called ahead of time, made a reservation for 20 people, placed a pre-order of food with the business and everyone showed up at the appointed time. Unfortunately, our reservation didn’t carry much weight because a large party that had unexpectedly arrived a few hours earlier was showing no signs of leaving, even after finishing their meal, having their plates cleared, and receiving their bill.

Management declined to take any step to move the group along, despite our reservation. So after 15 minutes we called another restaurant, just a block away, and confirmed that they could immediately accommodate us, so we moved the party. We had a great time and it all worked out.

We didn’t harbor any animosity toward the first restaurant; we simply knew that, next time, we would go there only with a smaller group. The next evening, though, the manager called seeking to have a conversation about our experience.

Two days later, we spoke in person for nearly 10 minutes, and I emphasized that we were not upset, but suggested ways in which the restaurant could avoid a similar problem in the future—such as telling the walk-ins, up front, that they could be seated as long as they were aware that another party had a reservation for that space in two hours.

The manager expressed his appreciation for the feedback, and that it was delivered in such a calm manner. Having worked in restaurants myself, I know firsthand that there is plenty of angry, sometimes hysterical, input from people that result in pretty nasty moments.

What struck me about the sequence is just how sincerely the restaurant manager wanted the feedback. He wasn’t just going through the motions or paying lip service to the idea of customer input. It’s a demeanor that any business is wise to emulate, since it’s not a matter of if, but when mistakes happen. Then, we are faced with a set of questions:

Do we pretend the slip-up never happened and hope for the best? Or do we see the follow-up process as an opportunity to turn a short-term setback into a solid long-term relationship?

Related Posts:

Why American Express Has My Loyalty
From A (Amway) to Z (Zappos), the Power of a Positive First Impression

1 comment for “One Path to Building Long-Term Relationships: Constructive Feedback

  1. rocket
    March 29, 2014 at 9:07 am

    This is a good post, and good on you for recognizing the difficulties faced by the food service industry. It’s a pet peeve of mine when I see others treating restaurant staff rudely.

    Feedback seems to be one of those things that’s difficult to take but simple to give.

    It’s difficult to describe communication, but you did a good job of it here.

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