Bottling it up – playing straight with customer complaints

Recently we talked about how important emotion is in handling complaints. As an example, we used HP Sauce’s replies to customers after a recent change to their recipe. Since then we’ve had some Twitter DMs and tweets asking what we would have done.

In fact, we’d only start looking at a customer reply when we’d already revised a long chain of processes and systems, looked at culture (often the biggest obstacle to effective complaint handling) and trained staff. But it’s always good to get a challenge, so here’s what we’d suggest…

The original

“Thank you for contacting us with regard to HP Sauce.
The essential ingredients for HP, the nation’s number one brown sauce, include Tomatoes, Malt and Spirit Vinegars, Molasses, Spices and Tamarind, and these have not changed over the passage of time.
In line with changes in consumer tastes, we have long been committed to reducing added salt in recipes to meet voluntary targets with support from consumer health campaigners. This very minor change to our famous recipe was made in November last year, and rigorous consumer tests confirmed there was no significant difference in flavour between the old and new recipes. HP Sauce still tastes great!”

So what would we do?

So what would we have done? Clearly, we’d follow the recommendations we set out here. But, perhaps most of all, we’d change the tone to make it more human and less corporate.

We can’t get round the mention of Government guidelines, although we’ve avoided any blame here. We thought about adding something like “…we know reducing the salt in HP might seem a bit odd; after all, most people get it out for fry-ups, hardly health food…” but it just over-complicated the message. Instead, we’re proposing that HP tries a bit of customer involvement instead. Could lead to a very powerful social media campaign that would give them the opportunity to really engage with customers again.

Our recommendation

Here’s the sort of reply we’d recommend for HP:

Thanks for getting in touch about the changes we made to HP. We’re sorry you’ve noticed a difference with the new recipe. It means a lot to us knowing that people care enough to write in and tell us they think we’ve got it wrong.

Changing a 138 year-old recipe wasn’t something we did lightly. In fact, we finally did it because we signed up to the Government’s policy to reduce the fat and salt in food. Although the change we made is quite small (we reduced the salt by 0.4g), customers can taste it.

So, can we ask you something? Will you give the new sauce recipe a bit more of a try? If it still doesn’t hit the spot, will you write to us again and tell us? If enough people do, we’ll try to find a way to re-launch the classic recipe again alongside the new, healthier version.

Thanks again for writing.

Responding to customer complaints

Help your teams to respond to complaints in a human, customer-centric way.

Responding to customer complaints

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