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Helping you put the customer at the heart of every decision.

Taking Action Can Be Simple

Acting upon the feedback customers provide doesn’t have to require a complete overhaul of a process, product, or communication vehicle. One great example of this came rushing back to me the other day when having a Reese’s Piece (is one just a ‘piece’ or are they still ‘pieces’?) with my wife. We discovered that we hadn’t won their latest sweepstakes in conjunction with ‘Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian’, and this reminded me of one of the weirder things I recall about my high school days. 

You see, Mr. Johnson, my sophomore English teacher was fanatical about two things – the power of the English language, and candy. During that time, and based on the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory premise, I’m sure, Hershey’s was sponsoring a sweepstakes contest, giving away $50,000 if you found the lucky game piece stashed in one of their packages. The intentions were good; get consumers to buy more of our candy for a better chance to win. However, they failed to realize that they were alienating this one particular consumer, Mr. Johnson the English teacher.

You see, on every game piece that didn’t reveal a prize, the message read simply:

You are not a winner.

Read quickly, it communicated that the consumer had not won a prize in this game. But, read literally, it struck a blow to a person’s self confidence. This might have gone on for some time, had Mr. Johnson not had a weak spot for chocolate. When reading that he was not a winner, it sent him into outrage, sparking an impromptu project for his sophomore level English class.

We each were required to write a letter to Hershey’s expressing our concern that they were essentially calling us losers by not having won their little contest. The test was to see if the company would a) listen to us and apologize, or b) not acknowledge us, thus forcing us into boycotting the chocolate giant (and settling for an inferior brand of candy) for the rest of our lives, given our aspirations of being winners in life?

As it turns out, within the span of a few weeks (within that school year), Hershey’s did respond to Mr. Johnson and our class, apologizing for the poor wording on their game pieces. In fact, they went further, by changing their packaging to address the feedback that they heard from our class. I believe he also got a coupon for some free candy, which was also appealing, of course. But most satisfying for Mr. Johnson was that Hershey’s had heard his feedback, and taken immediate, but very simple action on it to address his concerns. What could’ve turned into a lost customer became a loyal one for life (despite the fact that I never heard of him winning one of their contests).  

He, and his class of sophomores learning about the power of the written language, had indeed become winners by persuading the Hershey’s Chocolate Company to change its way of communicating. So, when checking to see if my wife and I had one a free night’s stay at the Smithsonian, I realized that the feedback that my classmates and I had provided nearly twenty years ago was still in play today, which made me realize how powerful it can be when a company listens and acts on what they’ve heard.


It may not have been a change that many people noticed, but today, every time I participate in a contest, I pay close attention to how they’ve worded the message if I didn’t win, and always think back to how we made a difference in how these messages read today.

Are there simple things that can be done to address your customers’ feedback that don’t require much effort? What are some simple ways that you’ve changed that have paid off in ways greater than you could’ve imagined?

Brad Harmon
Vice President

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