Dunkin’ Donuts has been in the news lately, with their announcement that, “all its menu offerings nationwide will be zero grams trans fat by October 15, 2007,” as stated in the press release.
So far, the fast food donut/coffee giant is receiving some good reviews for their latest attempt to keep up with the mainstream trend of kicking trans fats.
Joe Scafido, Chief Creative and Innovation Officer at Dunkin’ Brands says,
“We are proud to be the first major quick service restaurant chain to introduce a doughnut that has zero grams trans fat, and are delighted that customer response to our new doughnuts has been unanimously positive.”
Dunkin’ Donuts has a history of trying to keep their hand on the pulse of what the latest trends are, and reacting to that trend. Just take a look at their press releases from now, all the way back to 2003. Over the years they have jumped in with both feet joining forces with the public figures such as Red Sox star Curt Schilling, creating ties to the U.S. Ski Team and Snowboarding teams, and becoming part of the gourmet coffee bandwagon.
But with all of their focus on being trendy, have they started to confuse the billions of people around the world for their customers?
Last month my wife and I found ourselves in a series of unpleasant situations with Dunkin’ Donuts employees. On one occasion an employee told my wife that, “she knew she wouldn’t like a drink that she ordered,” and didn’t offer to replace the cold, watered down latte. On another visit, an employee accused me of forging holes punched in a frequent customer card, because of how worn it was. The fact is, it looked worn because it had been smashed in my wallet for weeks, but that didn’t seem to matter to the employee. I was so astonished by these incidents that I was compelled to send a complaint to a Dunkin’ Donuts consumer care representative.
A week later I received a default apology letter in the mail and 5 Dunkin’ Donut bucks. (Which I might note didn’t even amount to a full refund for just one of the dreadful visits.) If you want to read the touching manuscript, click on the image of the letter to the left.
You can focus on trends, buzz, celebrity endorsements, memorable ad campaigns, and quality products all you want, BUT without a focus on a relationship with the customer, all you will ever be is a one hit wonder.
So here’s the part where we get to hear what you think.
What could Dunkin’ Donuts, or any company, do to better create relationships with their customers?
Each moment of customer interaction is an opportunity. When I sit across the meeting table with a brand new start up company, or when a client has figured out that great ideas abound at HD if they only ask, I start at the same place… Your best marketing is providing an extraordinary product or service. What ever you do, do it well. This is the first “trend” to focus on.
That is why at Hester Designs, I constantly push our employees to excel at what they do. This includes client interaction. Contacting a client by phone after a series of e-mails is a must for us.
When you are in a position such as Dunkin Donuts, you should be striving to make every customer feel like they got more than your money’s worth. If it doesn’t taste good, make sure you provide enough secondary free options to make every customer’s experience amazing. You should leave there saying to your friends, “Can you believe how they went beyond the call of duty to make sure I liked them?”
On another note… Low Fat Donuts. Ridiculous. It’s fried dough with Icing. Because I said that, they will sell like, well, low fat donuts. Zero-Trans Fat DOES NOT mean low fat.
I think they should just have free donuts to any customers who will buy coffee and drink it in the store. The local donut shop in my neighborhood gives away free sampler cinnamon rolls.
Jeff, giving out free donuts is a great concept.
Dunkin’ Donut’s coffee is actually quite good, and there are probably a lot of people who have never tried it. Giving out a plain donut with every purchase of coffee, latte, or iced coffee would be incentive enough for some to give the coffee a try, and it would cost the company next to nothing to give away the sugary piece of dough.
By the way, if you read the full press release about the zero trans fat donuts, you will find that they make no claims that the donuts are “healthy.” But it will be interesting to see how they advertise the fact that the donuts have zero trans fats, because, as you point out, many people don’t know the difference between “0 trans fats” and “low fat.”
I’ve been a big fan of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee ever since living in New York. There was a shop right at the bottom of the stairs of my subway stop. I can say that my experiences were always positive – and those were ALWAYS during rush hour madness, so that’s saying a lot.
I was really surprised when I heard about your unfortunate experience and although it won’t change my opinion of their coffee, it does change my opinion of the company.
You are aware that Dunkin Donuts is headquartered in Boston, right? The tie to Curt Schilling isn’t something trendy, it’s about Dunkin tapping into regional culture. They’ve had a long-standing relationship with the Red Sox and have tapped a number of players for commercials in the past (as has another regional powerhouse, Gillette).
But on the customer interaction front, you’re right on. Marketing is more than strategies, slogans, 30-second spots and promotions. A powerful marketing channel is customer service – from call centers to the customer experience in each store – every point of contact is an opportunity to improve the experience.
I had no idea they where Dunkin Donuts was headquartered. Thanks for pointing that out!
You’re exactly right. Employees are the face of the company, an aspect that is sadly often overlooked by many, when talking about building a solid brand. What makes more of an impression on customers? The local radio spot or the face to face interaction with an employee?
On a side note:
I am happy to report that Dunkin Donuts must have taken my complaints seriously (at least at this specific location) because for the last month they have provided me with excellent service. Hopefully they can continue this in all of their stores across the country.