What happens when companies get it wrong with their customers?
They create detractors from their brands. That is those people who are more motivated to tell all of their friends and family members just how rubbish your brand is, over and over and over again. People never seem to become complacent when complaining, or run out of steam. Weirdly, we’re three times more likely to complain than we are to celebrate. A great experience is expected and it is not to be celebrated (delightful exceptional experiences are to be celebrated, but that’s another blog another time). Detractors and poor customer experiences create CEO’s worst nightmares, disgruntled p’d off (ex)customers who’s sole mission in life becomes to destroy their brand.
And with social media, it’s very scary just how easily and quickly that can happen. One tempting juicy stand out online moan on twitter plus one clever/bored journalist and you’ve got yourself an all out PR hate campaign to back pedal your way out of. If only you’d got it right first time.
I’ll be writing more on how to avoid these situations but in the meantime here is a very creative complaint letter written to a company who continued to get it wrong, and wrong and wrong again. Lets pray your brand never receives a letter like this.
(please note all company names have been changed)
Dear “insert appropriate Director here”,
I’d like to tell you a bedtime story.
It’s a story you may have heard before. It’s guaranteed to make you cry and maybe even at times make you laugh. It may also cause you sleepless nights but I do hope you’re brave enough to hear my bedtime story in full.
Once upon a time there was a young lady who wanted to furnish her new special bedroom with a special new bed. The lady was quite excited about her purchase having been persuaded by friends to invest in a really expensive new bed.
Off she trot to “the shop”, Britain’s leading Bed Specialist. Unfortunately there was only one man working at the land of “Land of Beds” and he wasn’t so friendly. In fact he wasn’t interested at all in the young lady, he didn’t offer her any advice. That is… until she showed him her money bags and said she wanted to treat herself to a special bed, at a special price and fast! At that point, as if by magic, the grumpy man turned into a charming man. Not quite a prince charming…
She made her choice but had one concern.
She lived in a little cottage and was worried that the special bed wouldn’t fit up the stairs. The now friendly man told her that as long as she had height into the stairwell, it didn’t matter that she had low ceilings, a quirky twisty stairway or narrow doorway. He also pointed out that “Land of Beds” had a no refund policy.
“Not to worry” thought the lady, it’s bound to fit, the expert man in the shop said so and there are so many other beds, if she did need to change.
Alas the day of the delivery arrived and to her disappointment, the special bed didn’t fit up the stairs. The bed was returned to the warehouse and the young lady spent the rest of the day on the phone to the magic world of Customer Services who are “continuously trying to think of new ways to delight their customers”.
Two hours later… she was advised by the not so delightful girl on the phone to visit the “Land of Beds” kingdom again to choose an alternative.
Off she trot again to the kingdom, scared about meeting the grumpy man. Luckily there was another man in charge that day – the Assistant Manager who was much more helpful. He also told her not to worry about Grumpy and that she wasn’t the first person to feel they had been miss-sold by him.
Prince Assistant Manager went through the options. She even drew him a floor plan of the stairwell to demonstrate the trickiness of the feat in hand. He recommended an alternative she was happy with and told her where to measure, saying the space needed to clear 5’. If it did, all would be fine again and at last she would be able to sleep in undisturbed peace.
Excitedly, the second delivery day arrived; the young lady could hardly believe it. Soon her exhausting challenge with customer service, bed deliveries and choices would be over.
Alas… It was not to be. The second bed did not fit. So it was returned to the “Land of Beds” and her special room, remained bed-less
Ready to cry in despair, she picked up the phone once again to Customer Services. “They want to delight me” she thought, I’m sure this can be worked through.
Four teams later and not one pleasant experience better off. Despair filled her heart. Never before had she spent so much money on one item for her house. What to do? Non of the alternatives were suitable for the special room. She broached the subject of a refund.
The nasty evil man in charge of the escalated calls part of the kingdom was not very helpful. In fact she felt he was down right rude and despite staying calm, explaining methodically how disappointed she was with the experience and how she felt she had been miss sold to twice, the evil nasty man accepted no responsibility in the matter. He even quoted some fancy legal terms and conditions manuscript and clearly stated on more than one occasion that the responsibility was the customers. “How can this policy aim to delight me?” thought the young lady.
She decided to give it some thought to see if she could find an alternative win-win solution. She was also very tired from speaking to the evil nasty man for so long – what a shame she still didn’t have a bed to lay down on to rest.
The most baffling thought for the young lady was why nobody in the “Land of Beds” kingdom seemed to demonstrate any listening skills. Maybe the nasty evil man had stolen their ability she thought…. As she shuddered (not for the first time).
Bracing herself again, she tentatively called “Land of Beds”. The nasty evil man rang her back. He laid out his final offer – which was positioned as a good will gesture. They would offer her a cancellation. And their terms and conditions clearly state this comes with a small fee. The teeny weeny small fee turned out to be a whopping 20%. The young lady fell dramatically back from her perch and had to catch herself. Stunned and shocked. It was turning into a terrible nightmare.
Several phone calls later, the nasty evil man negotiated 10%. So now the young lady had parted with over £100 and still had no special bed.
Closing the door tearfully to her special room, she decided she wasn’t going to buy a special bed after all for some time. It would remain empty and she would stay in the small attic room instead.
And you’d think this is where the story ends…
But like all good bed time stories, there’s always a twist!
One month later, the young lady still waits her refund of nearly £900. Out of the blue, she receives one of those fancy pants text messages to her modern phone. It says, “From Customer Service, we have your goods, please contact us to organise delivery.”
So “Appropriate Director”, I hope you made it to the end of my story and it wasn’t too painful to read. Having spent ten years as a Customer Experience Specialist in the Mobile Communications industry, I understand more than many, just why Customer Promise, Customer Experience, Service Excellence is so important to survival. It’s tough out their at the moment. But in tough times, you need all the advocates you can get.
What my little “Land of Beds” adventure has done for me I’m afraid is turn me into a detractor of your brand. Except for the nice Assistant Manager in the shop (who I have to say did a brilliant job of trying to help me), I don’t feel your business has done enough to acknowledge my pain of their cock up. I’m left with a bitter feeling in my mouth, £100 worse off and still no bed! I’m only sorry it couldn’t have been resolved more successfully before this point.
I’ve taken the action of sending this story to your major competitors. I thought they may have some good advice for me to send to you regarding how you can live up to your printed promise of “continually trying to think of new ways to delight our customers”.
Sleep tight xx