patient complaints

Healthcare Marketing: Are We Overreacting When We Respond to Consumer Complaints?

After receiving resistance to their new logo, Gap went back to the old logo.  Did they overreact?  Patient Complaint

After undoubtedly a series of focus groups and extensive research, Gap decided it needed to change its logo.  They wanted a more contemporary look that was current but yet honored its heritage.  A tremendous amount of research and work went into developing the updated logo.  So Gap introduced it’s new logo on it’s website.  But four days later reversed the decision and returned to their original logo.

The change occurred because consumers took issue with the new mark and voiced their disapproval using various social networking sites.  The reaction was strong and fervent.  So four days later, Gap president Marka Hansen announced the logo change was being rescinded and the company was returning to the original logo.

Many people praised Gap for listening to its customers and paying attention to their concerns.  And for responding rapidly and answering the consumers’ requests.  It’s the way marketing works today.  Consumers are in control. They voice their opinions and solicit others in the network to join the crusade.  And a company is highly regarded for listening to consumers and responding to their concerns and wishes.  Everything you read about marketing today would affirm that GAP did exactly as it should.

Maybe that’s true.  But maybe not.  Was all the research conducted by Gap about their logo just wrong?  Was it bogus?  Did the resistance merit abandoning the new logo?  Were those complaining brand loyalists?  Would those who resisted the change stop buying Gap clothing?  Is it no longer strategically important to update the logo for the future?

A survey commissioned by AdAge and conducted by Ipsos Observer found that 80% of consumers had no idea the logo had changed.  Is it possible to put too much emphasis on consumer social networking responses?  Do consumers know what is best strategically for a company’s future success?  Are consumers always right?   What happens when Gap someday raises prices to remain economically feasible and they meet resistance in social media?  Do they sacrifice the company’s financial health because some consumers express dissatisfaction?

This real life example raises questions about how much influence unsolicited consumers should have on your brand.  I don’t have all the answers.  I commend Gap for listening and responding to consumers.  That’s the value of social media.  But I also cringe somewhat because they caved to the wishes of a relatively small amount of consumers.  I wonder why some opinionated consumers who didn’t like the new logo trumped all the research that had indicated an update was needed.

Healthcare marketers should listen to consumers.  They should be responsive to consumer feedback and input.  But should they forsake research findings and strategic planning for the wishes of a small percentage of customers?  I know social media experts say we should respond quickly to consumer complaints but I would have liked to have known who the complainers actually were (consumers or non-consumers) and if they were consumers who would have stopped buying Gap products because of the logo change.

Social media is helpful and exciting. But should it hijack and derail strategic planning that’s based on solid research?  It’s a serious dilemma and deserves further consideration and study.


Hospital Marketing: Don’t Let a Patient Complaint Become a Big “Hit”

It’s been said to never get in a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Now it must  be said “never get in a fight with a consumer who knows about social media.”

Social media wordcloud glowing

United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s guitar. He was a member of the Canadian band, Son’s of Maxwell, and was traveling from Canada to Nebraska for a week of touring. At a change-over in Chicago, baggage handlers damaged his $3,500 guitar. Carroll repeatedly reported the problem and sought $1,200 payment for repairs. United stonewalled and refused to accept any responsibility. Why not? Carroll was just a two-bit musician and United was a very large corporation. Why should United care? He couldn’t hurt them. So why pay the $1,200?

Getting no satisfaction, Carroll wrote a song, “United Breaks Guitars” and placed it on Now the video has been played over 3.5 million times on the website.

It used to be argued that you never get in a fight with a newspaper because they buy ink by the barrel and therefore there’s no way you can win. Now in this consumer-based economy, never get in a fight with anyone who knows how to use social media.

What does this have to do with hospitals? It’s clear. No patient complaint can just be shrugged off and ignored. The consumer has power and if they feel they are being ignored, can and will, use “free” media to seek revenge. Customer satisfaction now must be given a much higher proximity (Shouldn’t it have always been a top priority?). Each dissatisfied customer has the ability to wreak havoc and cause great PR harm.

No longer can big corporations think the consumer is a little guy without the necessary resources to fight a big corporation. With access to social media, the little guy is now only limited by his creativity.

Yeah, some customers (patients) are impossible to please but they can never be taken lightly. Every complaint, every concern should be addressed. The disgruntled patient has many options to speak to the world about his/her dissatisfactions.

The London Times  reported that United Airlines stock has dropped since Carroll’s song began airing costing stockholders $180 million. Maybe your hospital doesn’t have public stock traded in the market, but ignoring and denying customer complaints can cost a hospital a handsome sum.

Don’t get caught singing that tune.