“Your Product is a Piece of Sh#t”: How we Responded to this Tweet

This post was originally published by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes on the LinkedIn Influencer blog. Follow Ryan on LinkedIn:

Back in 2010, popular pizza chain Domino’s took a whole new approach to business following a major PR disaster set off by a highly inappropriate video shot by two employees on the job (which involved cheese being put up noses and onto pizzas). As part of its drastic shift in strategy, Domino’s reached out to customers with a survey asking for immediate and honest feedback on its product. Then, in a twist, it decided to make public some of the results, which were largely negative. Customers told the company that its pizza crust tasted like cardboard, its tomato sauce had the consistency of ketchup and that they felt frozen pizza was superior to Domino’s. Yikes.

Then, something amazing happened. Domino’s actually did something about it. It launched a campaign called Pizza Turnaround to reinvent its pizza “from the crust up.” The strategy worked. Within months of releasing its new and improved pie, Domino’s reported one of the largest quarterly same-store sales jumps ever recorded by a major fast-food chain. And since then, Domino’s has continued to foster open dialogue with its customers using a variety of emerging digital channels, like social media. (The brand currently has an impressive 10 million fans on Facebook.) The whole approach must be working—Domino’s, which was founded back in 1960, has seen its stock surge from $7.73 in 2009 to more than $70 in 2014.

The point here is that negative customer feedback is always painful but, when used right, it can be an invaluable asset in business. Bill Gates may have put it best years ago when he said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” The good news is that right now learning from customers is easier than it’s ever been. With the proliferation of social media, any business can engage in open dialogue with customers via networks like Facebook and Twitter, at a fraction of the cost of, say, putting together a massive customer focus group.

Recently, my own company unveiled a major makeover of a key piece of our core product—the Hootsuite dashboard. Users see the dashboard—which organizes multiple social media accounts into one screen—each and every time they log into Hootsuite.com. And, well, over the years, the UI had aged a bit. Since we launched in 2008, social media has grown much more sophisticated; we wanted a new dashboard to reflect this evolution. We also wanted to acknowledge and respond openly to the input we receive from our users.

So to kickstart the project, we first sorted through user feedback from one of our main company social media channels, our Hootsuite Twitter account, looking for some of the worst, most critical messages about the look of our dashboard. Then, instead of tucking them away in a file folder somewhere, we decided to bring them into the light. Our engineers and designers went to work addressing these issues, while our creative team put together a YouTube video to own up to our flaws. Inspired by comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s hilarious “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” segment, it should be good for a quick laugh.

After months of work, we launched our new dashboard several weeks ago, using the “Mean Tweets” video to promote the changes. We’ve received some great responses from our users, and also heard back from people who say they appreciate our modern and transparent approach. It’s a great lesson: openness, humility and transparency is really the only way to move forward. It’s something we’ll be keeping very much in mind as we roll out more improvements in the months ahead.

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