I heard Patrick Doyle, CEO of Domino’s Pizza, speak at ameeting of the Washtenaw Economic Club on Thursday (February 21, 2013). I was impressed by his honesty about himself and his company and his sense of humor even in the face of threats to Domino’s survival.  In 2009, at a time of declining revenue and store closings, Domino’s changed its product entirely. Doyle became CEO in 2010 and it was up to him to launch the new product. If customers didn’t like the new product, that could have been the end of his career with Domino’s. He met the challenge and because of having the right product, a successful advertising campaign, and a comprehensive training program that reached every employee in all the stores, the company regained its position as market leader.

Domino’s had been known for its delivery service, not for its pizza. According to all of their taste tests, Dominos
the pizza was as good as their competitors. But that didn’t matter. What mattered is that consumers did not think that the taste was better than their competitors. So the leaders listened to their customers and redesigned their pizza.  And they were honest about this in their advertising. In the ads, they admitted that the pizza had not been good but that they had completely changed it and asked people to give it a try. It worked. Honesty resulted in a dramatic increase in sales and profit. This made franchisees very happy because they had taken the risk along with Doyle and the other Domino’s executives.

I’ve heard the mantra, “listen to your customer”, for many years. Now, everyone says that they listen to their customers. Help desks and customer surveys are ubiquitous. However, I don’t see much change in companies because of all this “listening”. Before I got off the phone with an AT&T customer service rep recently, he asked if he could count on me to give him a good score when I received a follow-up survey. How is that “listening to your customer”?

As a business owner myself, I’m trying to listen to my customers every day. I am continually amazed by what I can learn from them. A customer (member) of Learning to be Great™ told me that, from her perspective, the company is information curation and lead generation. I hadn’t thought about the business that way but it made complete sense to me. This perspective will change how we market the company and what services we develop to support our members and users. It’s great to have customers who care enough to tell us the truth. We just have to be sure to listen.

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