Celebrating Customer Champions

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Sometimes employees do stupid things that negatively affect the customer experience. And sometimes the leadership of those companies can flip a potential disaster into a positive public relations cue, gaining positive customer sentiment as a result.

Sometimes employees do stupid things that negatively affect the customer experience. And sometimes the leadership of those companies can flip a potential disaster into a positive public relations coup, gaining positive customer sentiment as a result.

That's exactly what Papa John's Chairman and CEO John Schnatter did last week when he apologized to a customer on the pizza chain's Facebook page when he discovered that a delivery man in Sanford, Fla., left a racist rant on a customer's voicemail when he inadvertently butt-dialed a couple after they left him a $5 tip. On the voicemail the employee complained to another Papa John's employee that the tip was too low, using racial expletives to refer to the couple.

"Friends, I am extremely concerned to learn about the reprehensible language used by two former employees in one of our restaurants," the Facebook post stated. "Their thinking and actions defy both my personal and the company's values, and everything for which this company stands."

"My heartfelt apology goes out to the customer involved, his family and our community at large. I am very sorry that anyone would be exposed to these hurtful and painful words by any person involved in any way with our company," Schnatter said.

Schnatter immediately took responsibility for the actions of his employees. Not only did he apologize, but he terminated the employees. Customers look to executives today to be transparent, accountable, and to take action on their behalf. In a sense, they have a responsibility to be vocal advocates for their customers, both internally across the enterprise, to the company's stakeholders, as well as to the general public.

Schnatter's response is indicative of an executive who understands that a positive customer experience impacts the bottom line and rapidly rectifying negative experiences goes a long way in repairing any cracks in the brand image and fostering customer loyalty along the way.

Each year, 1to1 Media recognizes and honors leaders like Schnatter who are active in championing the customer cause throughout their organizations and whose devotion to enhancing the customer experience can be measured.

I'd like to welcome you to nominate an executive for this year's 1to1 Media's Customer Champion program. This person should fit the bill of elevating the customer experience, fostering employee engaging, and delivering bottom-line impact. The 2013 Customer Champions will be honored in October at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum West in Los Angeles and will be featured on 1to1 Media.com. Deadline to enter a Customer Champion is July 5 so download a nomination form today.

Good luck!

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EXPERT OPINION