What can lousy customer service teach us about personal branding?
Quite a bit it turns out.
The recent catastrophe at Jet Blue where some customers were left stranded on runways for up to 10 hours is just the most glaring example of egregious customer service turning into a colossal branding disaster. Many companies large and small have their own mini Jet Blues all the time.
Recently, I’ve spent a seemingly gazillion hours battling customer service nightmares from the likes of Verizon Wireless and Hello Direct. In fairness, both telephone companies, once you escalate your complaints to supervisors and managers, try to help. Of course, why you should have to do that is another matter.
Both businesses, like so many others, put their reps on a treadmill so they repeat the same action over and over. Hello Direct kept sending me replacement phones – I must have six now – none of which work. Finally, a manager had the light bulb idea that someone actually test a phone before sending it. Hello, Direct!
Meanwhile, Verizon has the audacity now to charge for a copy of a bill. Here is part of an email I received from one of their reps:
I can send a copy of your current billing statement to the address on your account. There is a fee of $6.00 that will apply for each statement requested. Customers are entitled to a free billing statement once every six months.
These companies are forgetting an essential rule of corporate – and personal – branding: Any time you touch a customer, you have an opportunity to turn it into a positive branding experience. How differently I would have felt about both companies if I didn’t have to spend hours trying to correct problems that could have been solved at the get go — or wasn’t initially charged for a service that should be free. Just ask the recent customers of Jet Blue what bad customer service can do to a brand.
In your own business or career, what can you do to insure that every time you touch a customer or employee, you are leaving the person more satisfied? Here are a few ideas:
• Provide extras. If you make a mistake, don’t just own up to it and fix it. Offer an additional helpful service, free product or at the least a “can do” attitude that shows you value the person you hurt.
• Guarantee satisfaction. Make a personal pledge that every customer or person you do business with is satisfied within reason. Every satisfied customer is a potential source of new business; while any dissatisfied customer can cost your business. Which type of customers do you want to create?
• Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be a robot repeating the same worthless action over and over. Instead ask yourself what you can do differently to prevent the same mistake. And make the necessary changes immediately.
Hello, Smart Personal Brander!
Wendy Marx • Public Relations/Marketing Communications
President, Marx Communications, Inc. • firstname.lastname@example.org