I am a beer drinker. Possibly even a beer enthusiast (though I'm not one of these guys who likes Maple Bacon Jalapeno Imperial Porters or anything). My favorite beer is Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. In theory it's their "holiday seasonal," but really it's just an IPA that I personally REALLY enjoy.

For years, my go-to beverage from Thanksgiving through New Years is a squat, red-labeled bottle of Celebration Ale. It's like...your favorite sweater or your favorite Christmas album. Bottles of Celebration Ale signify the holidays for me.

A few weeks ago, I read that rather than bottling the beer, this year it would only be available in cans. Now, I get that there are good arguments for canning beers. My counterargument is that beer out of a bottle is clearly superior in every way, and I stand by this highly personal assertion. I decided to tell Sierra Nevada as much, via a contact form on their website. Let's call it an "impassioned and strongly worded argument against canning Celebration Ale." 

2 days later, I get an e-mail back, explaining how they are able to ship it more efficieintly in cans, and how it's easier to get shelf space in stores with cans instead of bottles. All very understandable.

A week later, I get a package in the mail, from Sierra Nevada Brewing. It contained a bunch of swag: a bottle opener, some stickers, as well as a pair of wool Celebration Ale socks and a woven Celebration Ale coozie. It also included a handwritten note that read, "Joe, Sorry Celebration Ale won't be the same this year in cans, but we hope this swag makes you feel better about it."

I was blown away. Sierra Nevada Brewing sells $252 million dollars a year in beer, $5-15 at a time. They have a LOT of customers, and they took the time to answer my complaint TWICE and sent me probably $20 worth of branded swag in the process. This does not happen accidentally. They clearly have a resourced process in place to address concerns like mine, and we could all take a lesson. 

What they realize, and we all should, is that a complaint isn't usually an attack on our business. It's a customer saying, "I WANT to give you my money, and here is an issue that is stopping me from doing this." If you drink craft beer, you know how ridiculous the selection is out there. Sierra Nevada certainly does, since they were one of the very first craft breweries and have seen their market get more and more crowded every year. So they take complaints and feedback VERY seriously. 

Complaints suck, and apps like Nextdoor or Facebook make it infinitely worse to deal with them. However, ignoring them doesn't make them go away, and most people don't complain; they just take their business elsewhere. If you don't have a company-wide process for addressing complaints, I encourage you to create one this winter. It can be as simple as deciding WHO and HOW QUICKLY we will address complaints and then making sure everyone knows what the process is.

Jen, who wrote to me on behalf of Sierra Nevada, said, "We hope this swag makes you feel better about it." And in short, it does. Not because of the stuff itself (though SmartWool socks are awesome), but because I felt like I was heard. Most of the time, that's all people want. 

How to Ask for Feedback 

It’s important to remember that if someone is unhappy with your business, they are unhappy whether you hear about it or not.

Positive online reviews are beneficial for any business-to-consumer company. For that reason alone, you should be asking your clients to give you feedback. To take it a step further, though, you should be asking for reviews because they give you the opportunity to improve. Furthermore, being responsive to complaints online and showing that you are willing to have a dialogue to address customer concerns - that’s even more impressive to a potential client. 

If you would like to improve your consistency in requesting online reviews, we can help. We create professional-looking e-mails like the example below and then schedule them to be sent several times a year. This is a simple and efficient way to get feedback from your clients and address complaints head-on. Contact me today for more information.