In forging life-long bonds with customers there are fine lines and crossing them can break those bonds for the short-term and sadly forever:
- Arrogance and ignorance.
- Genius and insanity.
- Pride and humility.
Shamefully and regretfully, all these came into play with the recent Pepsi and United crisis:
- Pepsi and Kendall Jenner “relieved racial tension” by handing a policeman a can of Pepsi.
- United and its CEO Oscar Munoz dragged a passenger through a plane, but he apologized for “re-accommodating” customers.
Here’s why should you care about this for your company or brand:
- Being arrogant with your customer relationships spells doom. Noone wants to be abused (especially physically) and disrespected and disregarded. Arrogance shows you care more about your reputation and outcomes than your customers’ comfort and satisfaction. We all know that you have no business or reputation to protect without customers. Cue Peter Drucker’s perspective – business is about creating a customer.
- Being ignorant shows you are out of touch, inconsiderate and downright callous with your customers. Be careful because your competition is ready to pounce with open arms. And you may never get them back. This study reveals that people who have a positive customer experience spend 140% more than those with a bad experience. And you know, it is all about the customer experience these days.
- Being insane (“re-accommodation”) speaks for itself and insanity has the potential to poison your culture. Although, I sense with United and Pepsi, that their cultures are hyperactive and overstressed in today’s economy and so they can act crazy in the face of challenges that require heightened sensitivity. Doesn’t it seem that the best companies (Apple, Nordstrom and Costco) have the best customer service?
- Being a genius in business, marketing or operations, can breed a sense of entitlement, and an even predatory and narcissistic approach to your customers and team. A “who needs them” attitude, especially when they challenge your standards, can lead to abusive attitudes and behaviors that only intensify and betray you in a crisis.
- Being prideful can cloud your thinking and affect your reactions. It also can stifle an organization, especially in crisis. And as we know, pride goes before the fall. And a “take or leave it” attitude, can leave you in the dark. Trust me, I have been there.
- Being humble and compassionate in an authentic way can go miles (pardon the pun) toward rebuilding and forging a positive long-term relationship. A George Washington University report indicates that of those customers who complain, 50% – 70% will do business again if complaint is resolved. 95% will return if resolved quickly. Advocates are better than antagonists. I have been in rooms discussing crisis. I know attorneys have good arguments for protecting a company but there must be a balance between legal risk and reputation risk and consequences for client relationships.
Okay, these two horrendous situations can be a gift for your company or brand, and motivate you to look at how you are respecting their customers.
As a side note, this week we lost a PR pioneer Al Golin of Golin. Al was renowned for his decades-long relationship with McDonald’s. That brand has faced many challenges and crisis during his tenure.
However, Al believed that McDonald’s ability to withstand crisis in the community and with customers was by building up the “trust bank” that could sustain withdrawals during trying times.
Al, may you rest in peace, and thank you for your leadership and mentorship while I worked with you at Golin.
I only wish United and Pepsi would invest more in building trust among their customers.
As I say, it’s all about the hugs and not the tugs when it comes to any relationship.
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