When It Counts–If Your Employees Are Confused, So Are Your Consumers

Not communicating to your consumers gets worse when your consumer-facing employees don't know what's going on. Three things to stay on top of your story. For better or worse, I enjoy a Starbucks Refreshers™ 12 oz. can of goodness almost every day. I gave up drinking diet soda on a daily basis more than a year ago. Longing for caffeine and a lower-calorie alternative to soda without the yucky artificial sweeteners, I found Starbucks Refreshers™ as a solution. Of course, a better alternative would just be tea or coffee, but there’s something about opening a can of deliciousness that makes my day a little brighter.

When I went to purchase my monthly stash at Costco the other day, to my unpleasant surprise, I discovered that the calorie count on the 12 oz. cans skyrocketed—the calories were no longer the nice 60 that I had so carefully been calculating into my daily diet … the can of goodness is now apparently worth 90 calories. I could understand five or even a 10 calorie difference (maybe someone measured wrong) but 30? Yikes!

I examined the can for answers … but nothing. No explanation. All the ingredients were the same, and the size of the serving was the same. Perplexed, I called Starbucks’ customer service. A nice young lady answered my kooky call, but when I discussed my confusion with her, she was more baffled than I was. Not cool, Starbucks. Not cool.

My calorie-counting concerns aside, the experience made me cringe for the lack of explanation and clear neglect of proper communication—to both employees and consumers. Sadly, it’s not the first time that companies have missed the boat when a product or service changes. I remember when Nike messed with its epic go-to Pegasus running shoe, turning off consumers for years. Thankfully, they got the shoe back on the right track.

Have you done the same thing with a product or service?

While many businesses may choose to downplay changes to consumers, not wanting to bring unnecessary attention to the matter, internal communications go a long way in saving face. So the next time you’re considering revamping a product or service, keep the following in mind:

  1. Communicate changes to your employees, especially customer service personnel. If they don’t know what’s going on, your customers are going to notice. No communication implies that the change is forced or not accepted throughout the organization. Keep control of the situation by communicating.
  2. Back up your changes. There is a reason why you have decided to alter a product or service. If you let your consumers know why, they are much more likely to understand and accept the changes. Share your rationale, and you will keep more customers. Some will likely leave regardless, but it’s better to lose a few than lose many who simply don’t understand because you haven’t told them.
  3. Be honest. As a Starbucks consumer, I merely want to know why the calorie count increased. While excessive communication is unnecessary, simple wording on the packaging (or at least an explanation from your customer-facing employees) could help keep consumers in the loop. I love it when restaurants post messages on menus like, “The price of oranges went up due to the unexpected freeze in Florida. As a result, we have to charge $.25 more for each glass of orange juice. We will be happily dropping the price back down when our costs go down.” The money (or change) is not as much of a concern as communicating WHY.

Starbucks Refreshers™ aside, do not spill a chance to keep your customers, and your employees, informed.

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