1. Have you ever written a letter or sent an e-mail to a company?
I have written an e-mail to a company regarding their product as they asked for feedback. The e-mail in this case was related to the Quaker Oats Yogurt Blueberry bars. While I am not familiar with the Quaker Oats protocol on how their letters are processed, my particular e-mail would fall into the "fan" mail category as I expressed that the yogurt blueberry bars were pretty good and that I would eat them frequently as opposed to the traditional granola bars of most companies.
2. What might motivate you to do so?
For the most part, I would only be motivated to contact a company if there was an issue or if a rebate/refund was promised as a result of purchasing the company’s good or service. In the case of the Quaker Oats Yogurt Blueberry bars, I was motivated to contact them because they asked for feedback in a consumer survey.
3. Would you expect a response?
I would expect a response from the company if it was a complaint or claim that I sent in to them. In a Forbes magazine article by Cheryl Conner she notes that companies often make the mistake of "responding selectively; not responding at all; responding erratically; cutting and running by attempting to buy the customer with discounts, refunds, freebies, etc.; and appeasing the customer through coupons [in an effort] to persuade the customer to rethink their comment or remove a negative report" (p.1). While consumer motivation and brand image are two critical components for companies and corporations, a complaint does not necessarily require them to respond in these specific ways but more or less to acknowledge the issue and rectify it. Each consumer complaint does not warrant a response. For Ben & Jerry’s "claim letters generally contain a complaint and require immediate response" (Guffey, 2010, p.220). This ensures that they maintain their stance on customer loyalty and a symbolic icon in the community so as a Ben & Jerry customer, if there was a complaint that I had with their ice cream I would expect an immediate response from them as well since that is a part of their company culture.
4. If a company such as Ben & Jerry's receives a fan letter complimenting products or service, is it necessary to respond?
"Customer letters arriving at Ben & Jerry's get special attention with handwritten cards or printed letters that promote good feelings and cement a long-lasting bond between Ben & Jerry's and its satisfied consumers" (Guffey, 2010, p.263). Is it necessary for a company to respond to positive fan letters? It would seem so to ensure that the bond is kept intact with the consumers. Certain companies and corporations cannot afford to ignore their fan base, while others do it to keep the brand loyalty they have. Companies such as General Mills and Nestle have built reputations on having longtime fans (consumers) because they are devoted to consumer satisfaction with their various products.
5. Why is it important for companies to answer claim messages immediately?
In an article by i-Sight, it states that by companies responding to complaints, it allows to immediate fix the issue and/or problem. They allow the company to also use the complaint to improve their product, perform service upgrades, change or adapt their marketing plan and ensure promotions and product information is sufficient and concise if need be. Companies should have a philosophy that makes sure customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal and trusts consumers in judging the viability of their product (p.1).
6. When customers write to Ben & Jerry's for information and the response must contain both positive and negative news, what strategy should the respondent follow?
Alice Blanchly, a consumer affairs coordinator adheres to the policy of Ben & Jerry's in responding to consumer requests for information about how the ice cream is created and/or the ingredients, by "locat[ing] the information and respond[ing]. For example, a consumer worried about cottonseed oil, Blanchly checks with quality assurance experts and investigated articles about cottonseed oil before responding" (Guffey, 2010, p. 263). It is important for Ben & Jerry's to uphold their mantra to consumer satisfaction and this means that they must or rather should respond to each consumer letter that comes into their company.
The i-Sight article further points out that consumers give the business the opportunity show goodwill and restore what has been lost in the complaint and/or letter that they send. Management needs to be careful in how they respond to consumers. This necessitates positive patronage and lets the consumer know that companies such as Ben & Jerry's are willing to resolve issues and/or problems as fair as possible (p.1).
7. If a customer writes to complain about something for which Ben & Jerry's is not responsible (such as ice in frozen yogurt), should the response letter contain an apology? Why or why not?
Ben & Jerry's mission statement was created with the concept of consumer dedication while ensuring that prosperity still occurs. Ben & Jerry's sells frozen yogurt ("Ben & Jerry's," 2013), so they are responsible for responding to the consumer because it is a product they sell. How can a company that sells a product not be responsible for issues and concerns that consumers have? It would be wrong of a company to assume that they are not responsible for a product they sell as that would only contribute to their downfall.
8. Why is responding to customer inquiries an important function for a company such as Ben & Jerry's?
If a company has customer satisfaction as a part of their mission statement as Ben & Jerry's does, it is very important to keep that mission intact. Ben & Jerry's operates on three different missions: social, product and economic and this is what has made them a well-known brand, therefore, if a company wants to keep consumer loyalty, they must respond to inquiries that come from their customers.
Ben & Jerry's. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.benjerry.com/
Conner, C. (2013, August 2). The 5 ways companies mishandle online complaints. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2013/08/02/the-5-ways-companies-mishandle-online-complaints/
Guffey, M. E. (2010). Business communication: Process and product (7th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Handling customer complaints: A best practice guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from i-Sight website http://www.customerexpressions.com/cex/cexweb.nsf/%28GetPages%29/CAC4DB21930B8EAF852570890045E2943