Undertaking a research project to learn about your market can be a challenging endeavor. Perhaps no aspect of the research process is more challenging than coming to terms with the results. This is especially true when the public in general or even an organization’s own customers provide negative feedback. Criticism stings.

When confronted by less-than-flattering feedback, some organizations respond to bad news by questioning the validity of the study or, more commonly, simply ignoring the elements that they don’t want to hear. It’s human nature to react that way. Unfortunately, it’s also bad business. 

The truth is, the customers and the members of the public who are most critical of an organization are often the ones most worth listening to. There’s room for improvement in every operation, and our critics, when taken in the proper context, are the best guides to showing us where and how we need to get better.

A great, high-profile recent example of a company taking its market research findings to heart is Domino’s Pizza. There’s a good chance you’ve seen the ad campaign Domino’s began this year in which they show focus group participants complaining that Domino’s pizza crust tasted like cardboard and their sauce tasted like ketchup. Later spots showed people from Domino’s following up with the critics and offering them an improved pizza that was reformulated based on the research findings.

Many commentators have been impressed by Domino’s bravery in running commercials that trashed their pizza. Some have even suggested they went too over-the-top with the campaign and, despite its message of product improvement, might damage the brand. That’s debatable, but no one can question that the campaign was a perfect example of a company conducting market research and taking action based on the finding, regardless of how unpleasant it must have been for people inside the organization to face up to the truth that their product was considered substandard by many consumers.

When unfavorable results come back from a market research study, it’s not necessary to splash the news all over the airwaves as Domino’s did. But it is vital that criticism from the public not be dismissed or ignored simply because it makes people in the organization feel uncomfortable.