What You Can Learn From Listening to Your Customers + Home Depot

I’m allergic to gluten.

Whenever I go out to eat, I know I’m taking a risk. But, I’m not a hermit and I don’t like to always eat at home.

My husband and I pick the restaurants that we’re eat at very carefully. We call ahead of time and ask if they have gluten-free options. If the person who answers the phone has no idea what we mean by gluten, it’s a definite no. We also ask if they prepare gluten-free food with separate utensils and pans, because cross contamination can get me just as sick as eating a piece of bread.

As soon as we meet our waitress or waiter, I explain that I’m highly allergic to gluten and ask that the chef be notified with our order. Almost always, the wait staff is extremely accommodating and nice.

A couple weekends ago, my husband and I decided we were in the mood for sushi, so we went to a local restaurant that we’ve eaten at before. We brought our own gluten-free soy sauce and told the waitress about my allergy when placing our order.

My mouth was watering when she brought over the delicious sushi rolls filled with asparagus, roasted peppers, avocado, lettuce, and pineapple and topped with coconut flakes. But, when I swallowed the first piece, I knew something was wrong.

I immediately sliced apart another piece of sushi and saw that the asparagus had been breaded. Crap.

I got really sick. My gluten allergy is no joke. For the next couple days, I felt like I had the flu.

When the chef and manager found out what happened, they were extremely apologetic. They wanted to fix the situation. Unfortunately, once I consume it, there’s really nothing that can be done.

However, they’ve taken many steps to rectify the situation. They recognized our order the next time my husband called in and made our regular-sized sushi rolls extra large. They’ve invited us in for free meals. They’ve become more diligent about making sure things ordered gluten-free ARE in fact gluten-free. And, they recently told my husband that they’re adding more vegetarian and gluten-free items to their menu to serve more people like us.

They listened to their customers.

You’d think that we wouldn’t go back there, but we have. Why? Because, it’s obvious that they care about their customers and they listen. That’s the most important part to me when it comes to loyalty.

This post could have been about how awful that experience was, but it’s not. It’s about how important it is to listen to your customers, and how well that restaurant is doing just that.

You want to take every opportunity to listen to your customers, make changes in your business model, and make your products and services more appealing.

Watch today’s video to figure out how to make your stuff more appealing to your customers and to find out what you can learn from the Home Depot.


17 Responses to What You Can Learn From Listening to Your Customers + Home Depot

  1. Marta Costa March 28, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Really great post!
    Because I got a lot of people commenting on my blog and asking if I sell the patterns of my crochet designs I decided to do it. I’m working on that as we speek. Never made a pattern so I’m learning everything about it first so I can deliver only the best.
    Love the background!
    Marta Costa recently posted..Snurk – Not Everything Is What It Seems

    • April March 28, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      Thanks Marta! That’s awesome and sounds really exciting.

  2. Jennifer P. March 28, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    I really enjoyed the restaurant story. Sometimes it’s almost more impressive when a company screws up and then addresses it than if they never screw up. It’s good to see how mistakes are handled, because no one and no company is perfect.

    Also, who breads asparagus for a sushi roll? That sounds odd.

    • April March 28, 2012 at 10:06 am #

      Isn’t that sooooo odd?!?! They breaded and fried it…didn’t know I needed to lookout for that!

      But, it is awesome to see how businesses deal with screw ups, especially when they do it well.

  3. Licia Dantas March 28, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    OMG you read my mind (needs) with that post!
    I’ve been talking to my clients about webdesign services and their real needs, its amazing how much feedback they’re willing to give once you show you care about their opinion and how it has positively changed our relationship and my biz. I have no doubt the information shared will take my biz to a whole new level and clients will be much more loyal to me.
    Great post April!

    • April March 28, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      Yay Licia! That’s fantastic. I love hearing things like this. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Kathi March 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    I could sooo relate to your GF restaurant story; I, too, am highly allergic, and really get that! I’m curious what you think is the best way to talk to customers. ie get feedback about product lines, why something isn’t selling, etc.. I was thinking of a survey on my blog (I don’t know how to do that—need a Blog Depot) OR is it better or even okay to email people who have bought from me already to ask them? Can you do surveys on FB? I have just added some new elements to my Alice Tea Party Dress…sold 2 of them sight unseen–the customers only had my description and no photos of the new parts when they ordered!! I have a lot more ideas I would love to sort of talk about with real mom-potential customers before deciding…Would love your feedback! Thanks for all your great posts and videos!

    • April March 29, 2012 at 7:38 am #

      Surveys are a great starting point. You can send a link to a short survey to customers after you know they’ve received your product. You can use Google Docs or Survey Monkey to create a free survey.

      Yes, you can definitely email customers. Think about the emails that you receive asking you to leave feedback for items that you’ve purchased. If you really loved the item, you probably don’t mind leaving feedback, right?

      But, I’ve found the best way to connect with customers is to talk one-on-one with them. Sometimes I’ll ask a customer who has purchased from me more than once if she wouldn’t mind chatting via Skype for 10 minutes. Every customer I’ve ever approached like that has said yes–and in fact, they loved that I was taking the time to connect with them and they became even more loyal to my brand.

      • Kathi March 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

        Wow, thank you so much for your very helpful response! (i never heard of Survey Monkey!) so Plenty for me to do when I finish with this Easter dress rush πŸ™‚

        • April March 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

          No problem Kathi! Glad it’s helpful.

  5. Sage March 28, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Hee hee! I love your blooper roll! πŸ™‚

    I gotta say, next to Marie Forleo (yay!), your videos are my favorites. I love the different backrounds because then I instantly know whether I’ve seen a video before or not. I also enjoy how it feels like you’re talking to me like a friend, not lecturing me.

    That stinks about the sushi. I’m a vegan so I know all about taking my chances when I eat out (of course, I won’t get sick like you do). I think you have a great attitude about it. It’s nice when companies really listen to their customers.
    Sage recently posted..Come On, Get Happy!

    • April March 29, 2012 at 7:39 am #

      Thanks Sage!

      That’s the best compliment ever! Now, I have a HUGE smile on my face.

  6. Amy March 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    thank you for another great video…I think it is so important to listen and remain objective.to all sides/reviews..
    Amy recently posted..Holy Guacamole Batman – It’s almost Thanksgiving – Where is my to-do list?!?

  7. Kim March 31, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Hi April!

    I think this is my favorite Wednesday Wisdom piece so far! So helpful! You always use actual examples of what you’re talking about like the Home Depot story, I never feel like you’re giving advice just to say something without it having a solid base. I love it when you use a real life example like this one.

    Any other suggestions on how to ask customers what they think or what they would change when you have an online business and don’t deal with the customers directly? I read the suggestions above about the survey, emailing, and Skype but I guess I’d be more interested in what they would improve or change or what they would like to see and not just having them say what they like which is what seems to happen when you ask them for feedback. It’s particularly tricky because you can’t talk to your customers and ask them to be honest.

    One thing I know is pulling me back in one of my product lines is not having the necklaces on a model in my photos (the necklaces are pretty unconventional and people have a hard time picturing them on, but they love them when they see me wearing one and always stop me and ask me about it). If you ever decide writing a post about transitioning into maybe spending some time or money on incorporating things such as having models in the photos I would be so interested in reading it! It’s scary to make the plunge and spend the money!

    Again, wonderful post as always! One of my favorites actually!

  8. Sandy Bowles April 4, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    Good Morning Cutie!
    Wow! Knock the ball out of the park! The more you share the more you help with everyday issues.
    Loved the end, lol!
    Kris now has a new Hand Sign for help. That goes along with the look at the empty wine glass “LOOK”! Lol!
    Miss ya!

  9. Forest Buras November 4, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    Gluten allergy can be sometimes annoying because i have to bake and eat special gluten-free food stuffs. *

    Our personal blog

  10. Corie Padilla March 5, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Gluten gives elasticity to dough helping it to rise and to keep its shape. It is found in many staple foods in the Western diet. It is a protein composite found in wheat and other grains, including barley and rye and processed foods thereof. Gluten is composed of a gliadin fraction (alcohol soluble) and a glutenin fraction (only soluble in dilute acids or alkali)…

    Have a look at all of the most recent posting at our own blog site

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