Wednesday, April 26, 2006

When the Customer Isn't Right

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I'm lactose intolerant. So, I'm always on the lookout for good dairy alternative products. A few weeks back, I started buying Silksoy yogurt because it was on sale at my local grocery store.

I thought it was great that they were trying to be environmentally friendly by getting rid of their plastic lids. But then I dropped one of the yogurt cups. And it immediately burst open, spurting strawberry yogurt all over the carpet. Needless to say, I wasn't a happy camper. Well, call me clumsy, but a few days later, I dropped yet another cup of yogurt, this time at the grocery store. And the same thing happened. It burst open, spilling yogurt all over the floor.

So, I wrote a friendly email to Silksoy to suggest that they create a stronger seal or lid.

And here's their response:

Dear X:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us. At WhiteWave Foods, we take our responsibility to our consumers and the environment seriously. We know it is important to take care of one while considering the other. It is in this spirit that we changed our Silk Yogurt packages to feature an easy-peel foil lid.
Our new yogurt cups use less plastic. Just replacing the traditional plastic lid with foil reduces our plastic needs by more than 100,000 pounds each year. That plastic reduction is great for the air we breathe because it improves the air's oxygen as much as planting 68 acres of trees would
In addition to the environmental benefits, reducing package materials allowed us to keep our price steady. The price for the raw materials was increasing; changing the package means we can avoid passing a price increase for our product on to our consumers.
Delivering consistently high-quality products is our top priority. Before making the packaging switch, we tested and retested the foil lids for strength and durability. We created stress test scenarios in our lab to evaluate seal quality and to ensure the cup structure can withstand all reasonable conditions.
We hope this is helpful.
Best regards from Silk

Umm, okay. So I sent them a nicely worded response. I was kind of wondering what kind of stress tests they did on their yogurt cups. Did they do any field tests? Maybe dropping one of the yogurt cups from counter height? I've never had this problem with yoplait yogurt. They too use foil rather than a plastic lid. Of course, I never got a response to my second email.

Anyway, in my ongoing quest to find the perfect dairy alternative, I've since moved onto a different soy based yogurt product from Stonyfield Farms. O'Soy has a more creamy consistency and a sweeter taste to it. As an added bonus, it's on sale this week at my local grocery store for even less than the sale price of the Silksoy product.

Just for kicks, I decided to email Stonyfield Farms, to see how they would react to a customer suggestion. And here's how they responded:

Dear X,
Thank you for taking the time to contact us. We always welcome comments and questions from our yogurt lovers and are grateful when someone takes the time to let us know what they think of our company and products.
We appreciate your suggestion for to consider boosting the calcium amount and lower the sugar amount in our O'Soy cultured soy. I will forward your suggestions to our Product Development Team. If I can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me at 1-800-PRO-COWS (776-2697) M-F, 9-5 EST.
We are passionately committed to producing the best tasting, healthiest yogurts available, and trying to do some good in the world while we're at it. Please visit our web site at to learn more.
Consumer Relations Team

Wow. The difference in the tone of the two letters is like night and day. Both companies are environmentally friendly. Both companies are trying to produce a product that's both healthy and tasty. But whereas Stonyfield Farm welcomes suggestions from its customers and actually provides you with a telephone number, Silk Soy tries to blow off customer concerns with some long winded explanation as to why the customer's experience is invalid. Lab tests. Yeah, right. To be fair, I haven't dropped one of the O'Soy cups yet. I don't exactly enjoy cleaning yogurt off the floor.

But, it just goes to show that it's not really what you say, it's how you say it. I doubt that Stonyfield Farms is going to reformulate their O'Soy product just because I asked them to. But it's nice to know that they appreciate customer feedback.

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