Ensuring Customer Loyalty Amid Price Changes: Lessons from Wendy’s Public Backlash

Ensuring Customer Loyalty Amid Price Changes: Lessons from Wendy’s Public Backlash

Navigating Pricing Model Innovations While Preserving Customer Loyalty

How can a brand’s attempt to innovate turn into a public relations challenge overnight? What does it take for a company to navigate the delicate balance between introducing new pricing strategies and maintaining customer trust? Wendy’s recent navigation through the complexities of changing its pricing model, spurred by its exploration into “dynamic pricing” based on demand, presents a rich case study in balancing innovation with customer trust.

The story began when Wendy’s, responding to evolving market dynamics, considered implementing new digital menu boards. This technology aimed to offer pricing flexibility, but CEO Kirk Tanner’s comments led to widespread speculation about potential “surge pricing” during peak times. The reaction from the public underscored the critical need for clear communication when introducing new pricing strategies.

Wendy’s promptly clarified that it had no plans to exploit dynamic pricing for increasing rates at high-traffic times. This quick response highlighted an oversight in how the intentions behind the digital menu boards were communicated, revealing a gap that Wendy’s acknowledged: “We said these menu boards would give us more flexibility to change the display of featured items… This was misconstrued in some media reports as an intent to raise prices when demand is highest at our restaurants.”

This incident not only illustrates the delicate balance between innovation and customer perception but also highlights the importance of Voice of Customer (VoC) tactics must be effectively employed to gain and sustain customer loyalty. When done right, VoC can be your brand differentiator and game changer.

My goal in writing about Wendy’s situation is to help business leaders and teams ensure their pricing strategies are met with understanding and acceptance and not tarnish customer loyalty and trust. Through the lens of Wendy’s experience, I’ll demonstrate how clear communication, active listening, and customer feedback are pivotal to long term success. Let’s dive into some important customer experience lessons.

Evolving Pricing Models Demand Enhanced Customer Alignment

As the marketplace grows increasingly competitive and customer preferences become more nuanced, businesses are turning to dynamic pricing models as a solution to maximize profitability while catering to consumer demand. Dynamic pricing, a strategy that allows prices to fluctuate based on factors such as demand, time of day, customer behavior, and market conditions, represents a significant shift from traditional fixed pricing. This approach requires a deep understanding of market dynamics and a sophisticated technological infrastructure for real-time pricing adjustments. The backlash Wendy’s experienced underscores the potential pitfalls of implementing dynamic pricing without thorough customer engagement and communication. It highlights the necessity of integrating the Voice of the Customer (VoC) into every stage of the pricing strategy development process. Such integration ensures that pricing adjustments are not only data-driven but also aligned with customer expectations and perceptions, thereby preserving loyalty in an evolving pricing landscape.

The Crucial Role of Voice of Customer (VoC) in Pricing Strategies

In this context of rapid evolution in pricing strategies, VoC emerges as an indispensable tool. It bridges the gap between dynamic pricing models and customer expectations, providing insights that help businesses fine-tune their pricing strategies to reflect the value perceived by their customers. By actively listening to and engaging with their customer base, companies can navigate the complexities of dynamic pricing with greater confidence and success. Here’s how VoC influences pricing decisions:

  • Enhances Pricing Strategy: Leveraging VoC insights allows businesses to refine their pricing strategies, ensuring they align with customer expectations and enhance loyalty.
  • Informs on Demand Elasticity: Analyzing customer reactions to price changes provides valuable data on demand elasticity, enabling more adaptive and responsive pricing strategies.
  • Improves Value Perception: VoC insights help businesses understand how customers perceive the value of products or services, guiding pricing adjustments that reflect perceived value.
  • Strengthens Competitive Positioning: Knowledge of how your prices compare with competitors, informed by VoC, can guide strategic pricing to maintain a competitive edge while fostering customer loyalty.

Sustaining an Effective VoC Program

For a VoC program to truly influence business strategy and customer loyalty, it must be seen as an ongoing journey rather than a one-off project. Building a robust VoC program involves several critical steps:

  • Commitment to Continuous Evolution: A successful VoC program thrives on continuous commitment, requiring businesses to stay agile and responsive to both market trends and customer feedback.
  • Foundation of Tools: Utilizing a mix of surveys, customer interviews, and analytics platforms lays the groundwork for collecting comprehensive customer insights.
  • Culture of Customer Feedback: Cultivating a culture that values and acts upon customer feedback is crucial. This ensures that VoC insights are not just collected but are instrumental in shaping business decisions.
  • Regular Strategy Review Cycles: Establishing regular review cycles allows businesses to assess the effectiveness of their strategies in light of recent VoC insights, ensuring that adaptations are made as customer needs evolve.
  • Integration Across Business Areas: Applying VoC insights across the business, from product development to marketing strategies, ensures that all areas are aligned with delivering exceptional customer experiences.
  • Continuous Improvement Driven by Voice of Customer: Positioning VoC as a strategic asset empowers businesses to foster an environment of continuous improvement, where decisions are driven by a deep understanding of customer needs and expectations, thereby solidifying customer loyalty.

Implementing these practices helps businesses not only to refine their pricing strategies but also to enhance overall operations, ensuring they meet and anticipate the complex needs of their customers. This comprehensive approach is key to securing a loyal customer base in today’s competitive landscape.


Key Takeaway: Without Voice of Customer (VoC) Insights, Leaders Navigate Pricing Innovation Blindly

The Wendy’s dynamic pricing saga highlights a crucial lesson for businesses: venturing into pricing innovations without Voice of the Customer (VoC) insights is akin to sailing without a compass. This case spotlights the risk of public misinterpretation and the potential impact on customer loyalty when VoC is overlooked. Integrating customer feedback is not just advantageous; it’s fundamental for crafting pricing strategies that balance revenue goals with customer satisfaction and trust.

VoC acts as the critical navigational tool that guides businesses through pricing adjustments, ensuring strategies are attuned to customer needs and market demands. Wendy’s experience serves as a reminder that to maintain customer loyalty and navigate the complexities of pricing innovation successfully, businesses must prioritize listening to and acting on customer insights. This approach not only mitigates risks but also strengthens customer relationships, fostering a competitive advantage in a dynamic market environment.


If you need help to develop a Voice of Customer Program at your company that enables you to continuously understand buyer needs and increase customer loyalty, let’s talk.

If you like this article…

Check out my conversation with Jeremy Hyde, Director of Customer Service at Sun Country Airlines. In this article, we dive into the delicate balance between quality and price and its significant impact on customer decisions. The insights gleaned from our discussion are not limited to the airline industry but resonate across various sectors, offering valuable lessons on navigating customer expectations and business strategies. 

How To Make “Voice of Customer” Your Game Changer

How To Make “Voice of Customer” Your Game Changer

Who are your favorite companies, and what makes you brand loyal? People typically answer this question based on how well a business understands and meets their needs which come from Voice of Customer initiatives.. Buying decisions go way beyond price as we often pay a higher cost to shop at a particular place.

Consider coffee, for example. Customers, including me, spend triple the price at Starbucks compared to other local coffee shops. Why would we pay more money on purpose? The reason is that the most reputable brands, like Starbucks, proactively LISTEN to the voice of the customer (also referred to as VoC) and use feedback to deliver personalized experiences that exceed customer expectations. 

Research proves the value of doing CX right, such as a study conducted by PWC. People were asked: “How much would you pay for the following product  or service if the company provides a great customer experience?” As shown in the image below, the answer is a lot, and getting it right is real!

The price premium for great customer experience:

Price Premium for Customer Experiences and Customer ServiceSource: PWC Future of Customer Experience Survey

Best in class companies also care about employee views and empowers their staff to deliver customer excellence. Their competitive edge comes from humanizing business, and you can apply the same principles no matter where you work. 




#1. Leverage Voice of Customer (VoC) In Everything You Do   

VoC is a valuable research method that enables you to understand the difference between customer expectations and how well you deliver what they need. Even if you believe there is no gap, your customer may think differently, and you must know that to adapt your strategies. Customer perception is YOUR reality. 

 Asking customers about their overall satisfaction level helps you gauge the likelihood of them continuing to purchase and recommend your products and services. Getting high-level feedback is good, but the magic happens when you dig deep into the customer journey. I highly recommend you ask customers to rate their experiences and provide comments about EVERY interaction point, commonly referred to as “moments of truth.” 

If you have not launched a business and do not have customers yet, then co-create a journey map with your target audiences (also referred to as personas). There are plenty of resources on the internet to guide you through the process, including my blog, DoingCXRight. My point is that getting Voice of Customer feedback in the right way and at the right time is essential for business success.   

 Most people rely on surveys as their Voice fo Customer source. While valuable, it must not be your only method of getting customer feedback. Additional useful data comes from: 

  • Website contact forms 
  • Interviews (online and in-person)
  • Social media
  • Ratings and Reviews (on your site & external rating pages)
  • Website visitor behavior analytics
  • Customer Care Call Data
  • Website Live Chat

I recommend aggregating and centralizing all VoC insights to understand your customers’ views from a holistic perspective. It’s a critical job function, so either assign the role in your organization to someone who has the right skill sets, or outsource the work. 


Step 2: Turn Voice of Customer Data Into Actionable Insights. 

 Obtaining customer feedback and analyzing the data takes time, but it is well worth it. You can’t possibly develop products, services, and market messages without understanding what your customers think and feel. 

 There are tools to help you compile, analyze, and prioritize data so that you know where to focus your improvement efforts. Some reputable time-saving platforms include Qualtrics. Medallia. Hubspot. Clarabridge, and more. They vary in capabilities and costs. If you have minimal or no budget, then start with manual methods of collecting customer feedback and using the data to inform your business decisions and changes.   

#3: Close The Loop With Customers 

If you ask customers what they think, then inform them what actions you took because of their feedback. For example, if you lead a focus group to design a new product, follow up with participants to show what you created because of their input. Even better, offer a discount that is not available to the public to express appreciation. If you have a centralized survey team, who calls customers share recordings and notes with your sales teams so they can contact customers, rectify issues, and thank them, too. 



Top performing companies combine Voice of Employee (VoE) and Voice of Customer (VoC) as part of their decision-making process. Asking employees for feedback makes them feel heard and valued. And, when that happens, their commitment and engagement to deliver customer satisfaction increases. Happy employees fuel happy customers. That is the formula for Customer Experience (CX) success. 



Proactively ask for feedback and use the insights to improve customer and employee experiences. Let them know of what changes occurred because of their input, as that is how you gain loyal brand advocates. On the contrary, if you do not follow CX best practices, people will switch to a competitor. According to PWC,

1 in 3 will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience. 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions.”

It costs a lot of time and resources to make up for one unhappy experience.  

It Takes 12 positive great experiences to make up for one bad. Are you DoingCXRight?

I can’t say it enough….

Customer Experience must be intentional and never an afterthought.  Make sure you are NOT just TALKING about it but actually DOING CX RIGHT! 


Why COVID-19 Can Be The Catalyst For Enhancing Your VoC Program

Why COVID-19 Can Be The Catalyst For Enhancing Your VoC Program

Voice of the Customer, commonly referred to as VOC, can be YOUR company game-changer WHEN DONE RIGHT! I speak a lot on podcasts about VOC and the art and science of getting feedback from customers to inform business decisions, and employees (VOE) too. This is the theme of my recent Customer Experience book.

Getting customer feedback and applying VOC best practices is essential especially during a pandemic because people’s expectations are constantly changing. MyCustomer asked a variety of experts, including me, about how to enhance customer experiences through a VOC program during tough times. Below is a summary of our conversations and tips about making VOC surveys more compelling.

Research Tells Us:

In 2016, in what was possibly the most meta consumer survey of all time, a 2016 OpinionLabs study revealed that 72% of consumers didn’t like being surveyed by brands.

More explicitly – respondents felt surveys interfered with their experience with a brand, while the same study found that 80% of customers had abandoned a survey halfway through because it was soporific.

It’s long been a catch-22 situation for businesses seeking to gauge the opinion of their customers – how to survey in a manner that’s not intrusive or damaging to the relationship they’ve fostered whilst also gleaning enough information to make the process worthwhile.

“To know how satisfied your customers are, you need them to tell you. The trouble is, customers aren’t playing ball with surveys anymore,” explains Sophie Leaver, marketing operations for Customer Thermometer.

Voice of the Customer (VOC) 

In recent years Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs have helped apply science to the art of surveying customers.

By asking for feedback at different points in a customer journey, and then applying some real-time thinking and a closed-loop system, VoC is aimed at removing some of the more painful or unnecessary elements of other longer-form surveys, which are often pushed to customers at the point of transaction.

“A VoC program enables leaders to understand customers and target audience perceptions and expectations,” explains Stacy Sherman, Head of Customer Experience for Schindler Elevator Corp. in North America, and the founder of DoingCXRight.

“It’s essential when building new products and developing market messaging or service processes.

“Developing the right questions to validate peoples’ needs are what I call ‘heart and science’. For example, if customers say that ‘communication’ is important and it turns out to be a key factor for dissatisfaction, then surveys need to incorporate reasons WHY communication is a pain point. You may start with high-level themes but then need to revise surveys to dig deeper so that feedback is actionable.”


Surveying During Coronavirus

This need for making surveys actionable is what drives VoC programs, and has taken on a renewed purpose since the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe at the start of 2020.

One organization that has felt the weight of COVID-19 as heavily as most is Stagecoach, which, as a provider of buses, coaches, and trams across the UK and other parts of the world, saw its customer base slashed almost overnight, as the result of the pandemic.

Keith Gait, who heads up the company’s customer service operations, was overseeing a trial of a new VoC program for Stagecoach which was due to be rolled out the week the UK went into lockdown in March. The company decided to hold back on the rollout, and despite an “almost total drop-off in passenger numbers for 2 to 3 months”, discovered something new about their customers that fed back into their VoC program design.

“We were still getting interactions from our previous feedback program at this time and we found that whilst our customer base was diminished, those people that were still traveling really, really valued the service, and our NPS went up a further 13 points during a lockdown,” Gait explains.

It made me realized that we needed to re-evaluate the VoC program we were about to roll out, and so during a lockdown, I spent a lot of time talking to people about how to improve it and make it more actionable.

“The view was we needed to make it more human, so that’s where we have focused. The feedback requests needed to be much more personable, much more about the human characteristics – of the driver, of the cleaners, of the welcome, of the safety – and generally less corporate. But whilst trying to still keep it very short. Our VOC program is all customer-led, it’s proactive on their part, delivered to them while they are actually on a bus, so we need to be mindful of the short attention frame we have with them.”

“The feedback requests needed to be much more personable, much more about the human characteristics.”

Stacy Sherman’s team at Schindler also took a similar approach to their VoC program during the COVID-19 lockdown, acknowledging that a much more ‘human’ approach was necessary to stay in contact with customers during a period of unprecedented uncertainty, and gauge their thoughts and feelings in a more direct manner:  

“My survey team pivoted to “peace of mind” phone calls. Instead of asking traditional questions that don’t apply right now, we contacted customers to express empathy and inform them that we’re here for them. We authentically asked customers how we can be of help, which has fuelled loyalty. As Maya Angelou says, ‘people will forget what you did and said, but never forget how you made them feel’.”

In a recent post for MyCustomer, Claire Sporton, customer experience innovation lead at VoC specialists Confirmit, believes the pandemic should reset the way every business thinks about surveying customers, and their Voice of the Customer program:

“People have changed. The research and insight you gathered six months ago is out of date; it relates to a whole different world. What is important to us has changed. The things that mattered before have been replaced by new concerns and this impacts our perceptions, expectations, and priorities. We need to ensure our insights reflect this new reality. 

“This surely means it’s time for a raft of new surveys! Hurrah! Or does it? What insight do you hope to gather and what exactly do you think you will be measuring? Have a well-defined plan before you open up your feedback tool and start hammering out a new survey.”


Boring Questions

Whilst the pandemic may be an opportunity to reset and refine VoC programs, it also offers an opportunity to ask yourself what makes for an interesting survey that can glean insight above and beyond the data being fed into your VoC program before COVID-19.

As an author of The Grid and founder of experience design agency Methodical, Matt Watkinson quipped in a post on LinkedIn in late-July: “I recently received a customer/brand survey that included these questions:

– You’re invited to take the first manned flight to mars but there is no guarantee of return. Do you take the flight?
– You can take a pill that guarantees you’ll live for a hundred years. Do you take it?
– Do you think you’d be better equipped to survive if you travelled 50,000 years into the past, or 50,000 years into the future?

“It was totally engrossing. I completed the entire thing — sixty questions or so. And it really got me thinking…why are surveys in general so f***ing boring? Is there an unwritten rule I’m not aware of? Don’t we want customers to engage with us and share interesting stuff?

“Why can’t we ask questions like, ‘If you were CEO for a day what one thing would you change?’ Or ‘If our brand was a band, who would we be and why?’

Why Your Customer Surveys Suck and What To Do About It

Watkinson makes a valid point, and one which taps into Keith Gait’s ascertain that customer surveys need to be more human, and tap directly into how a customer might be able to elicit actual change as a result of completing a VoC survey.

“It’s been so striking how much has changed about the feedback we’ve received since [the start of the coronavirus pandemic].

“It has been much more personal from customers, valuing the drivers and the key role they have played in keeping them moving. They have also been generally more understanding about delays and factors outside the company’s control. But we need to keep asking them relevant questions and making sure we resolve issues that arise as we move out of lockdown and customers’ tolerance levels change.”

And this is where the true challenge lies – can you start asking more interesting questions of your customers, and can you facilitate action? Stacy Sherman says this is where the benefits of VoC will become most apparent for businesses.

“I believe customers are actually starting to expect surveys more than ever, because the focus on customer experience has exponentially increased across industries.

“Boredom is not the issue but rather knowing what companies do with their information is what drives their actions to share feedback. The magic happens when companies “close the loop” and tell customers about improvements made because of their responses. People are then more motivated to spend their precious time to help your brand in those instances.” 

The Returns From Investing In your Customer Experience

The Returns From Investing In your Customer Experience

Over the years, we often hear “the customer is always right.” While “always” may not really be the case, companies are going out of their way to please customers to fuel business growth. This is especially true during Covid19 where social distancing is required and creating customer happiness is harder. Many companies have recently paused their business or shut down because customers stopped buying. On the contrary, many other brands are thriving because they’ve pivoted their business to online, and leveraging data to better meet customer expectations. (Read more about companies who’ve transitioned their strategies and lessons learned.)

Using customer insights to drive business decisions gives companies a competitive edge. While I have my own views on how to collect customer data and use the information to influence product development, market messaging, website design, and more, I became interested to hear from a financial leader to gain additional perspective. I connected with Howie Bick, the Founder of the Analyst Handbook to discuss the financial value of investing in customer experience. The following is a summary of our conversations: