Using Angry Customers

Want to make improvements at your company? Use your angriest customers to help.

…It was actually an anecdote at the tail end of the story that caught my attention, a story involving Ken Freeman, former chairman and CEO of Quest Diagnostics, who had once headed Corning's TV glass business. At the time, the Corning division found itself in such dire straits that Freeman had to persuade employees that quality had to improve or they'd be without jobs. His warnings went unheeded, so Freeman shut the factory for nine days and invited the company's best customers to address the work force. One customer threatened to "stop buying Corning products in six months unless the quality improved," he says. The tactic got the staff's attention and within a year, quality was again Job No. 1.

Why don't more companies do this? Because they are afraid of finding out the truth. Ignorance is bliss. But it's more than that. For companies seeking bliss, ignorance is sometimes a strategy.

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