Learning from Angie

Angie Hicks, the founder of Angie’s List, writes on the HBR Blog Network. The article is focused on lessons learned and, consequently, tips for how companies should deal with online reviews and feedback. The advice is formulated in four points, which can be simplified and restated as (in order): identify your real customers, deal with the problem, take their complaint seriously, and fix what’s broken. While companies can undoubtedly learn from Ms. Hicks’ experience, it is fascinating that what we learn in the article boils down to “take your customers seriously.”

The obvious question that follows is: why don’t companies take their customers seriously? Perhaps because it may be costly to deal with customers, and we may need to prioritize some over others. Or perhaps choose not to deal with some of them even though it is not immediately intuitive that there may be cost reasons not to take customers serious. Or, as Ms. Hicks hints in the article, companies may not know who their customers are.

Furthermore, they may not have established relationships with customers or offer means for customers to communicate feedback directly to them. Or they may not have initiated or encouraged a dialogue with customers and are therefore left unaware of how their products are received in the market. But this only brings us back to the question: why don’t the companies take their customers seriously?

Naturally, the question may be phrased the wrong way and could therefore fail to capture the real issues. The alternative seems odd: Could these problems amount to an entrepreneurial opportunity for above-normal profits – through taking customers seriously?

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