South-Western - Management  
Toll-Free Tips: Nestlé Hotlines Yield Big Ideas
Topic Managing Manufacturing and Service Operations
Key Words Feedback, Customer Satisfaction, Change
News Story

Millions of dollars are spent each year to research shoppers' opinions and to get their input for the development of new products. Nestlé of Vevey, Switzerland was particularly struggling to find new products and to stay in touch with U.S. consumers. Nestlé wanted to supplement information received from consumers during focus groups, where people are paid for their opinions, but can often be influenced by others in the group. They looked at caller logs to their 800 number and found that only 20% of these calls represented complaints. The rest of the calls were mainly expressing opinions about Nestlé products. Nestlé trained their managers to return some of the 880,000 calls they receive each year and to talk directly with users of their products about their opinions and suggestions. As a result of these calls, they have made some changes to product packaging and colors and these changes have delivered a jump in sales.

Proctor and Gamble has also implemented a similar program and trains their call center representatives to ask additional marketing questions of callers to their toll-free number. These responses are funneled back to decision makers in real time to incorporate suggestions and allow changes.


The article states that getting information from callers to toll-free numbers is advantageous because the callers are not influenced by others' opinions, as they might be in a focus group setting. What are some other advantages companies might get by gathering information from their 800 number callers?


What are some things to be cautious of when gathering information from callers to toll-free numbers?


Nestlé found that focus group findings disagreed with toll-free caller findings on the packaging for one of their offerings, a chocolate and caramel candy with "Mr. Turtle" and orange striping on the package. The focus groups didn't like Mr. Turtle but the callers did. Nestlé chose to keep Mr. Turtle, but to make the image smaller on the box. In your opinion, did Nestlé do the right thing in following the advice of their callers? Explain your answer.

Source "Toll-Free Tips: Nestlé Hotlines Yield Big Ideas," Wall Street Journal Friday, September 3, 2004, pA7.
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