Listen and Learn (From Customers)

November 30th, 2012

The marketing maxim, “the customer is always right,” has evolved over the years. We are a vocal society and today have an array of tools and channels to voice our opinions.

Did you hear about the debacle between New York Jets fans and the team’s defensive player Bart Scott this week? It stemmed from the Thanksgiving football game where the Jets lost a lopsided game and the fans during half time offered some unsavory feedback to the players as they were heading into the locker room.

During an interview with the New York Daily News after the game, Scott ripped the heckling fans by saying they were “probably picked last in dodge ball all through high school.” Disparaging an ultra-passionate New York fan base was not the smartest move. A few days later, Chris Johnson, the star running back for the Tennessee Titans lashed out via Twitter to a fan that questioned his on-field performance and how it impacted the player’s fantasy football points. Johnson’s retort, “F ur points,” may not have been the answer the fan was looking for.

While these may have been isolated incidents projected through the media, they underscore the importance of listening, a fundamental principal of marketing and business. Either through conversations in person or over the phone, via email, letters, comment cards, surveys or social media, the information and insight can be instrumental and powerful.

The key to receiving feedback is first being prepared to handle it – taking the positive with the negative. Equally important is how you react to it, especially in professional settings where customers (or fans) may appear to cross the line and even become toxic.

With respect to Scott and Johnson, clearly these fans were unhappy about the performance of their respective teams and players. They offered feedback and although both professional athletes proved they were listening, their knee-jerk reactions lashing out created PR imbroglios.

Had Scott and Johnson taken the chatter in stride and acknowledged that there is always room for improvement, this would not be a story today. Instead, they damaged their respective reputations and alienated the very fan base that pays their salary.

Not too smart.

Domenick Cilea

Domenick founded Springboard in 1995. When he is not working on marketing, PR, branding or content strategy, Domenick can be found in a gym, on the road or pool training to survive his next triathlon.

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