When customers provide feedback about your company, you have a great opportunity to listen, acknowledge, and engage with that customer. As we know, this can build loyalty, positive word of mouth, and increased satisfaction levels.
It’s important to remember your audience when a customer comes to you with feedback or questions, though, and gauge your response carefully.
Hasbro found this out the hard way. A six year old girl was playing a popular board game, Guess Who? and noticed that there were more male characters than female. She wanted to know why, so her mom drafted an email to the company based on her daughter’s question.
Hasbro responded; however, the response was not geared toward a six year old:
Thank you for your email. Please find below an explanation which I hope your mummy will be able to explain to you.
Guess Who? is a guessing game based on a numerical equation. If you take a look at the characters in the game, you will notice that there are five of any given characteristics. The idea of the game is, that by process of elimination, you narrow down who it isn’t, thus determining who it is. The game is not weighted in favour of any particular character, male or female.
Another aspect of the game is to draw attention away from using gender or ethnicity as the focal point, and to concentrate on those things that we all have in common, rather than focus on our differences.
We hope this information is of help to you.
May we thank you for contacting Hasbro and if we can be of any further assistance, either now or in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us again.
This isn’t something a six year old would understand. When the mother of this child responded to Hasbro, she explained just that, and added that as a 37 year-old she wasn’t entirely clear from Hasbro’s response.
The mother then shared this experience on her blog and in her social media venues. Here’s where things were getting interesting and could have potentially gotten much worse had Hasbro not responded again….
When the mother shared this experience, people took Hasbro’s response as a gender bias, and people started talking about Hasbro not showing gender equality, only defining females based on their gender, and not knowing how to talk to kids.
Yikes. Pretty harsh perceptions based on an experience. Those perceptions, while likely not the case as Hasbro’s response didn’t suggest these ideas at all, are a good example of how consumers can run with a (false) statement and hurt a company’s reputation.
Unfortunately, word of mouth can spread quickly, and even if it’s a false claim, if that’s how a consumer is perceiving your brand, they will talk about it as truth. You can see how this could have gotten much worse.
Thankfully, Hasbro responded a second time to the mother, this time in a much more child-friendly version:
Dear R____, We agree that girls are equally as important as boys and want both boys and girls to have fun playing our games. When you play the Guess Who? game, you have the same chance of winning the game whether you picked a card with boy or a card with a girl.
We love your suggestion of adding more female characters to the game and we are certainly considering it for the future. In the meantime, you will be pleased to know that we have additional character sheets that we can send out to you in the post if you ask your mum to send us your postal address. Alternatively, you can visit http://www.hasbro.com/games/discover/guesswho/Guess-Who-Characters-en_GB.cfm to download and print additional character sheets so you can have lots of different fun people`s faces to choose from. You will be happy to know that our downloadable sports character sheet includes an equal number of boys and girls.
We hope your mum does not throw out your Guess Who game!
Now THAT’S a great response! Not only does it speak to the six year old on her level, but it makes her feel valued, as Hasbro suggested that they will consider her suggestions. And, it gave her a value added bonus of being given a link to create her own character sheets.
If Hasbro would have responded that way in the beginning, it could have circumvented the brief misperception and negative word of mouth.
1. Show your personality: stay away from canned and/or technical responses. Simply address the concern, in your own words, and use personality when responding.
2. Remember your audience: know your consumer base and how to talk to different age groups. Hasbro likely has similar emails from children based on their industry; know how to respond to the younger consumer in their “own language.”
3. Your words may been seen by the world: you never know when something you say in response to a customer inquiry/concern will be spread online, especially these days. Keep it professional and respond with the thought that your words may be seen by many others. You should always want to keep a positive imagine of your company in your correspondence, no matter what you’re doing, but like they say with social media “Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t want on the front page of the newspaper.”