All companies live and die by customer feedback. Microsoft launched Windows Vista in 2007 with high expectations. Immediate negative customer feedback due to compatibility issues spurred a backlash from even the most loyal customers. Microsoft was slow to respond to criticism and Apple jumped at the opportunity to launch a successful smear campaign based on the phrase “Hi, I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC.” Feedback is often a direct result of manufacturing quality control. When a manufacture receives a complaint, it is actually a gift that should be acted upon immediately. Successful manufactures use customer feedback to drive quality control and increase sales.
The use and importance of online customer feedback has grown significantly over the last five years. In 2007, a study of more than 100 retailers concluded that 57% provide online shopping, and 22% of those allow online customer feedback (Liu & Wei, 2010, p.121). A later study conducted in 2009 found that 62% of the top retailers had an online presence, and of those 56% allow online customer feedback (Liu & Wei, 2010, p.121). In only two years, the online presence of customer feedback grew dramatically and is still growing today. The majority of these retailers allow written comments as well as numerical ratings. According to this study, 62% of consumers use online feedback in their decision-making process. Online customer feedback gives consumers access to information similar to word-of-mouth advertising at the speed of the internet. This data shows the clear direction that the consumers are moving towards increased usage of customer feedback for buying decisions.
Manufactures should see all complaints as a gift. Market research indicates that companies with mostly negative feedback under perform competitors. Typically, retailers set quality control expectations. Retailers demand a certain level of quality and allow for a certain number of defects. If a defective product makes it to the consumer, the consumer returns the item to the distributor. The risk to the distributor’s reputation is low because typically only one consumer is impacted for each occurrence. The risk to the manufacture in this example is even lower because the customer associates the products with the retailers not the manufactures. Even if the customer expresses their discontent using word-of-mouth, they effectively only reached a small population of potential consumers. With the availability of online feedback, every customer has the ability to affect a greater audience. “A study by the London School of Economics found that a seven percent increase in electronic word-of-mouth advocacy correlated with a one percent increase in growth” (Power of Reviews, 2012, p.7). Manufactures should embrace the free information provided by the consumer. Increasing a company’s Yelp rating by one star was found to increase revenues by nine percent according to a Harvard Business School study (Power of Reviews, 2012, p.7). Manufactures should adjust their quality control to resolve issues that in the past would be unnoticed. The result is a better product for the consumer and increased sales for the manufacturer.
Manufactures can improve their customer feedback and ultimately the quality of their products by focusing on tree main objectives:
1. Proper implementation of an online feedback program. Modern manufactures should have an online presence that starts with a professionally designed website. This site should provide consumers with a tool to provide feedback on their products. Manufactures should encourage participation in the review process. It is acceptable to offer an incentive, to the consumer, for providing feedback in exchange for their time (Power of Reviews, 2012, p.7). This tool should also allow consumers to numerically rate the products. Numerical ranking allows the manufacture to produce statistics based on the feedback, where as comments are subjective and open to biased interpretation.
2. Manufactures should acquire the services of a skilled social media professional. A dedicated employee should monitor online customer feedback from the manufactures site as well as other prevalent forums as it pertains to their products. They should set up Google Alerts for relevant search terms as it pertains to the product (Collins, 2012, p.135). When someone leaves feedback on your product, Google will automatically notify the user. The social media professional can then provide statistical data to the manufacturing quality control team as it pertains to online customer feedback. Finally, the social media manager should respond to negative feedback with offers to resolve the customer’s issues. Negative feedback that is resolved by the manufacture often will be seen as a positive experience by future consumers.
3. Manufactures should utilize feedback to improve quality control. Information is power and often expensive to acquire, however in the case of online customer feedback, it is free. Manufactures should study constructive criticism then adjust processes and product designs accordingly. Quality control managers should look for commonalities in complaints and defects so that engineering solutions can eliminate manufacturing problems.
Implementation of these three objectives will improve quality and customer feedback resulting in increased sales. The speed of the internet and availability of information makes quality control even more important than in the past. Online customer feedback has taken the place of word-of-mouth advertising. Consumers are now more informed about the products they are buying. Customers are very attentive to customer feedback. Online customer feedback is the new driver of quality in the manufacturing process.