One of my favorite toys to play with when I was a kid were Legos. As a kid I remember seeing the incredible 6286-1: Skull's Eye Schooner kit, but not being able to purchase it as Lego discontinued it. I really wanted this Lego set, so in spite of my parents telling me not to expect a response, I wrote a handwritten letter to Lego asking if or when they would ever re-release this set, and advising them kids like me would love to have these pirate sets again.
Much to my parent's surprise (and mine) I received a letter back from someone in Lego who explained to me that while the set was discontinued, they planned on releasing a new set in the future. As a young child, that wasn't the response I was wanting, but now that I'm older it's one of the fondest memories I have of Lego. Someone at Lego took the time out of their day to write back to a child and be kind and gentle to them. In fact, that letter is one of the reasons I still love Lego to this day, and will pass my Legos down to my children when I have them.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a very happy AT&T customer tracked down AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson's e-mail address and sent him some advice about how they could improve their service.
"Hi. I have two suggestions. Please do not contact me in regards to these. These are suggestions. Allow unlimited data for DSL customers, particularly those in neighborhoods not serviced by U-verse. Bring back text messaging plans like 1,000 Messages for $10 or create a new plan like 500 Messages for $7."
Mr. Stephenson decided to send the letter to the comapny's lawyers who responded with this:
"AT&T has a policy of not entertaining unsolicited offers to adopt, analyze, develop, license or purchase third-party intellectual property ... from members of the general public, [...] Therefore, we respectfully decline to consider your suggestion."
What I have found is that customers only reach out to use to give advice when they really care for our product or service. These are the best customers we could ever possibly ask for, as they want to see our companies grow and become better. When Lego reached out to me, I was happy to be a customer because I knew they cared for their customers and wanted to see their company grow and improve and someday re-release this set. Our example from AT&T doesn't convey those some emotions, and as you would expect conveys a very negative emotion about the company.
In my opinion one of the core tenants of every business should be "Love your customers". Customers are the life and breath of our businesses - they buy our product, share what we do with the world (the good and the bad), and sometimes even give us advice on how we can improve our product and services. While we may not always like the advice our customers give us, it is our responsible to treat them with respect when they do.
So instead of disrespecting customers who give you advice, take their advice to heart - think about how you can use it to improve your business, and thank them for being your customer - because without them we'd be dead in the water.