Recently I was honored by a national organization and I was both elated and humbled. I would even say it had been one of the highlights of my career to date, but then things went off the track. There was a huge mix up with the awards, and after 3 months of round robin, I still didn’t have a plaque to show for it. I finally gave up on getting a physical gift in my hands and I decided to simply be “OK” with the recognition itself. But their brand will forever be marred in my mind.
As if the initial mix up wasn’t enough to give me pause, the situation was compounded by the fact that the buck was passed from person to person when I tried clearing up the matter. Then when someone finally stepped in and took responsibility, he never made it a point to connect with me to deliver the goods. After several failed meeting connections, I finally provided my mailing address and was promised it would be shipped the next day. That was two weeks ago (picture a scowl on my face).
Let’s look at the facts; the event was most exquisite and the organization is very reputable, reaching some of the most influential people in the country. One would think that their REPUTATION would insulate them from any negative fall out…uhhh NOPE!! The truth is that regardless of your existing reputation, it just takes ONE person with ONE bad experience to put a dent in the shiny brand that you have worked so hard to build. So in spite of the fact that my good experiences were equaled to my bad experiences, here is what I will remember about the organization:
- They are unorganized (the mix up)
- They don’t take responsibility as a whole (passing the buck)
- They don’t do what they agreed to do (never delivering the goods)
- I had to initiate and re-initiate all of the conversation about rectifying the problem (although I was not at fault…this circles back to the responsibility thing)
- They also made me feel like I was the problem for being so persistent
Fast forward and “Organization No Show” is promoting a new program. It really seems like a wonderful program, but they gets NO SUPPORT from me. Here is why:
- Solid referrals are a big part of my brand. People know if I recommend something, its top notch. I won’t risk damaging my brand on a solution I can’t count on.
- They haven’t EARNED the referral. I have been offered no incentive to support the organization, not even the faith that they will deliver as promised.
- I will not assume that my experience is isolated so again, I have no faith in the brand.
So now let’s get to some real meat. Can ONE negative experience ruin your brand, the answer is YES!! With all the advances in digital communication, social media and the advancement of the smart phones, word travels fast. And word-of-mouth is still the most powerful and fastest form of marketing. When the message is negative it travels even faster. Here are a few tips to help rectify a negative customer experience.
1. Be Proactive
As soon as you know there is a problem, then be proactive in communicating with the customer.
Even when the customer is irate, listen empathize with them, make them feel understood. In most cases, clients calm down when they feel they have been heard.
3. Take Responsibility
One thing that can piss a customer off quickly is feeling they are being blamed for what has happened. Or in my case getting the “oh well sh*t happens” vibe. People want to work with companies that are strong enough to admit and rectify their mistakes. Don’t underestimate the power of an apology, “I’m sorry” can travel a long way. Sometimes an apology is not about being wrong, its about making it right.
4. Make it right
Find a solution that will make the customer feel better about what went wrong. If you can’t come up with anything, then ask the customer “what would you like to see happen?” Nobody is saying to go broke here, but often times making the customer feel better won’t cost you much. It could be as simple as a Starbucks gift card.
5. Follow Up
After the appropriate amount of time has passed, be sure to follow up with the client. Ensure they are fully satisfied with the outcome and most importantly brand loyal. Offer some incentive the get them to engage with your brand again immediately. The longer you wait, the less likely they are to return.
As much as we would like to save every client the truth is we can’t. But we can try to minimize the damage whenever possible. Remember, it takes about 80% more resources to land a new client than to keep an old one.
Happy Branding… J.