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Chuck Martin didn't think anything of it when he loaded his expensive new pizza
cutter in the dishwasher, but was surprised by the way it came out. After all,
the manufacturer, Dexter-Russell Inc.,
did not put a "not dishwasher safe" warning on the cutter's heavy cast aluminum
So, who is to blame for the corroded mess? Should Martin,
who bought the high-end tool at Williams-Sonoma,
have known better or should the manufacturer replace the expensive kitchen tool
because it did not provide a warning?
This case, which was first featured in our Made
By Monkeys blog, got me thinking – how do companies respond to complaints
and negative online reviews about their products and what actions do they take
as a result?
Jim Bellerose, Dexter-Russell's marketing manager, says he
"stumbled upon" our blog and responded to Martin directly via e-mail.
"We will respond to it when we see it," Bellerose says. "If
(Martin) would have called us, this would have been taken care of immediately,
without all the ranting and raving. It's better if you can catch it before it
He says Martin, who admitted to "being angry, too harsh and
flying off the handle," received a new, albeit different, pizza cutter from the
company, 99 percent of whose business comes from food service suppliers.
"Williams-Sonoma is kind of an aberration for us," Bellerose says. "Most of the
stuff we sell is mainly into food service. They should know that you don't put
it in the dishwasher."
He says the pizza cutter being sold at Williams-Sonoma
likely came out of a "bucket" and did not include care instructions, though
Martin's complaints about the product are the first he's heard.
Dexter-Russell, Bellerose says, is expected to have a formal
program for monitoring or scanning blogs for its product names within a month.
"We'll know when our product names pop up and we'll scan blogs," he says. "When
Dexter appears, we'll know and we'll address the problem. When something comes
up, we'll throw our two cents in."
Eric Lawson, Microchip
Technologies' public relations manager, says Microchip deals with
complaints, criticisms and questions mainly through the company's user forum.
"We have experts who monitor these forum threads on a
regular basis, and they jump in to help," he says. "It's users talking to each
other about the problems they are having. Then, a (clearly identified, in some
cases by a snowman) Microchip person jumps in to help."
Each forum is related to a different product line, Lawson says.
"We do have a number of people who are monitoring the forum. This is just one
of the tools we have." He says Microchip also has an online help ticket system,
which is available for around-the-world support. "There is a whole host of
different avenues where we help customers solve problems."
One recent problem cited by Lawson came via an Australian
video blogger – EEVblog – who was "complaining in a prominent way." The blogger
was not happy with changes made to a newer version of Microchip's PICkit,
saying, among other things, that the PICkit 3 "sucks" and is "made by idiots."
"He really liked the PICkit 2 and was a fan of our PIC
microcontrollers," Lawson says. But when PICkit 3 hit the market, it sent the
blogger into a 10-minute
frenzy of complaints about the dev tool.
So, how did Microchip deal with the disapproving blogger?
Did they call their attorneys and implement an immediate cease and desist
order? They probably could have, but instead, gave the man a taste of his own
"We decided to do a video
response of our own," Lawson says. "It was pretty self-deprecating. Then,
(the blogger) spoke to our CEO on the phone and he was happy with our response.
I think it was a pretty positive reaction all the way around. We worked on some
of his suggestions and the blogger also stood corrected on some points."
"If you watch his rant,
you'll probably laugh at the way he presented it," says Lawson, who also said
the blogger posted a second
video following Microchip's.
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