Bad customer service destroys brand relationships

One of the best aspects of social media is that it has motivated companies to become customer focused. To attract and retain business, companies today had better be on their A-game as far as customer service goes or be exposed for it on online. Every contact between customer and employee is a reflection of the brand and vital to the brand image. Customers will only tolerate poor service for so long before abandoning the brand.Broken promise concept.

The eighth annual Accenture Global Consumer Survey found, not surprisingly, that broken promises are a top area of frustration for consumers. According to the survey, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents indicate it’s extremely frustrating when a company delivers a different customer service experience from what it promised upfront. Seventy eight percent of consumers say they are likely to leave when they encounter such broken promises.

A woman’s clothing store has lost me as an online customer. This store has the worst service I’ve ever encountered. I ordered a gift card for my sister for Christmas one year and the store took three weeks later than the promised delivery date to get it to her. When I called to inquire about my order, the “customer service” representative could not have been more unconcerned if she tried. She offered no explanation, no apologies and, obviously, no service.

A year later, I placed an online order for two blouses and opted to have it shipped to the physical store to take advantage of free shipping. Email confirmation said the store would contact me when my order was in. Weeks went by without any further communication from the retailer. Three weeks later, I finally called about my order. I learned my order was at the store and had been since 5 days after the order was placed.  Contrary to the email confirmation I’d received, no one had called to let me know my order was in. The “customer service” representative I spoke with blamed it on store personnel and told me if I didn’t pick my order up within 3 days the store would ship it back.

That was the point at which I said good-bye to this retailer. Two consecutive screw ups is two too many. Especially when there are so many other options available. Clearly this store does not have its people, systems, functions, processes, leadership and front lines aligned. My advice is to cease all online ordering activity until you do. Otherwise, prepare for an exodus of customers.


A true story about what can happen if you don’t monitor your brand

Some PR advice I give is to regularly monitor the Internet to see what’s being said about your company and key principals. Considering the speed with which information spreads online, brand reputations are built or harmed in real-time these days. So, I tell clients to set up a Google Alert and search social media networks to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s being said about them.

Fortunately, I follow my own advice. Thanks to a Google Alert I set up, I discovered someone was using my father’s name, without permission, as the name of their blog.

For many years, my dad, Gib Shanley, was the radio voice of the Cleveland Browns and a TV sportscaster. I set up a Google Alert a long time ago so that I’d get an e-mail notification whenever his name appears in online news or blogs. I was recently surprised by an alert I received about a “Gib Shanley Store” – since my father passed away in April 2008. I checked out the site and discovered it was a blog that featured reviews about Garmin watches and audio speakers, with the name “Gib Shanley Store” prominently displayed in nice big type.

After checking with family members, it became clear someone was using my dad’s name – perhaps to get high search rankings and traffic…although I can’t say for sure because whoever it was never responded to my inquiries.

I posted a comment to the blog letting the person behind it know he or she didn’t have permission to use the name and that doing so is illegal. I included this link and told them to remove the name immediately. Whoever it was (no identity was given on the blog) wisely complied, because I would have taken legal action.

Had I not been monitoring online mentions of my dad, I would have never known…and this could have been a site about something much worse than watches and speakers.

When it comes to brand reputation, what you don’t know can hurt you. Keep an eye on yours.