Make customer care a top priority
IF nothing else major happens, United Airlines will probably go down in history as netting the prize for the biggest PR fail this year.
Beauty and fashion brands, however, face consumers’ wrath on a daily basis when dissatisfied customers bang on their doors and demand for refunds, justified or otherwise.
Recently, a friend of mine uncovered a disturbing situation whereby a six-month-old beauty product (which she spoke well of in her review on mywomenstuff.com) was recalled and discontinued pending investigation.
Initially, when Paris B first contacted the brand’s Malaysian office for clarification a couple of months ago, she had no response. She then reached out directly to the brand’s New York office via Twitter.
She was informed through private DM that there was a “quality issue likely due to minor raw material variations, which caused some consumers to experience skin discomforts”.
In the meantime, she connected with other beauty bloggers and readers in Australia and Indonesia, who in turn, contacted their respective brand reps in their own countries. While these responded swiftly to the readers’ concerns and basically gave the same advice as Paris B received, our Malaysian rep only replied when it seemed the situation might get out of hand.
The group’s corporate PR (not the brand) finally informed Paris B that consumers could take the product to any outlet and get back a full refund in line with their customer satisfaction guarantee, even without receipts.
While there hasn’t been any major complaints from the public about the said product causing skin problems, the brand deemed the product “incompatible with its high quality standards”, and rightly so, took action before it escalated into something bigger.
What was puzzling though was why up till today, the brand has not e-mailed an official response to Paris B, nor has there been any recommendation to consumers to stop using the product. There has also been no official statement from the brand globally.
As a reputable global brand, I feel the PR could have been better handled. The issue with the product was possibly something very minor and probably easily tweaked, but the fact that questions went unanswered implied the issue was being swept under the carpet as the brand clearly wanted it all to go away.
In today’s digital-savvy world, however, the more you try to evade something, the more people will dig deeper. I would have thought that the right course of action would have been to give consumers immediate reassurance, and come up with a plausible reason rather than ignore queries.
Conversely, I’ve nothing but respect for Paris B, for the way she investigated the whole issue, rather than just going off the handle like some bloggers do. Running a responsible beauty website, she laid out the facts and sought proper clarification from the brand, and probably gained more readers along the way as they tuned in to watch the next scene unfold.
That’s what I miss in today’s news content – in the bid to be faster than others, people put up stories online which sometimes are no more than rumours and gossip – without verifying sources and validating the facts. And what’s worse, trollers jump on the bandwagon to comment, and by the time things turn out to be untrue, the damage would have been done to the reputation of the company or person(s).
I also had an unpleasant encounter of my own which left a bad taste. Interested in purchasing a particular gadget, I had agreed to test it out for a month. I had to pay a deposit and use the gadget for x-number of hours a day, if not, it would be forfeited.
I returned the gadget before the month was up as it didn’t suit my needs. However, I received a text that said my deposit would be forfeited as, according to their data, I had not fulfilled the number of hours of use.
This was because I was away overseas for a week so I didn’t bring it along in case it got lost or I absent-mindedly jumped into a pool with it.
One might say that the company had spelt out the terms from the start. But rather than calling me up to find out why the conditions were not met, I just got an impersonal text to inform me I was losing my money.
Naturally, I hit the roof and only later did they call to meet “for a discussion”.
Isn’t the primary objective of the deposit to ensure that the gadget, which was quite expensive, was returned in good working order? Surely the customer reserves the right to decide on the usage of the product, and why continue if I already know that it’s not right?
Thanks to professional PR intervention, I got my money back. But I won’t be recommending this company to others in the future.
I will never forget renowned chef Tetsuya Wakuda who told me in an interview, that it was his customers he valued most. No matter how wonderful your food (or product) may be, if your service sucks, they will not come back, he said.
I firmly believe the same principle applies, no matter the situation.
People remember bad consumer experiences a lot longer than good ones. Share your thoughts with email@example.com