A former colleague and dear friend copied me on an email to a renowned baby diaper brand that had frustrated him beyond belief. He wanted wise counsel to know if he was truly justified to feel completely put off by the brand’s empty promises.
His story has the makings of the Nigerian soap operas popularly known in these parts as Afro Cinema and has the fine scripting of a dramatic Mexican telenovela. It pains me to not name and shame the brand for behooves a good investigative journalist to get a 360 degree view before exposing the perpetrators.
And so here’s how the story goes…………
My colleague – let’s call him B, attended a Baby fair about two weeks ago with his wife who is expecting and toured the various stall. They were impressed by the presentation and offer by the diaper brand, let’s call them Diaper and bought two big packs. They were very pleased to get an instant reward offer of a bib, a bag and two discount vouchers valid at any Nakumatt Supermarket outlet.
On their way home, they stopped at the supermarket and picked up four more packs of new born diapers and were thoroughly embarrassed at the till when the discount vouchers were declined.  Mr. B then expressed his disappointment on twitter and Diaper’s twitter handled referred him to a Customer Service desk out of the Country. As he didn’t have the time or patience to call out of country he found the feedback page of the Baby Fair organizers and emailed them.
 After two days he received a call from a representative who appreciated his feedback and apologized for the situation. She then proceeded to offer a make good gift and requested that he pick it up after two days. The same day in the afternoon he received another call from a sister company and a different person apologized for the same situation and went on to tell him that they wish to send an apology basket to and requested his home address. She also took the opportunity to advise that they have a home delivery service for diapers, and Mr. B who was pretty excited to hear this promptly let Mrs. B know.
He then sent a message to his first caller to let her know that yet another caller had called and that he would now not go to pick up the basket as caller two would have it delivered. Caller one thanked him and wished him a good day.  He also received a pleasant apology email from a different person representing the brand that took responsibility for the error and informed him that they had righted the voucher situation.
Let’s just say that this is where the excellent customer service took a nose dive!
Mr. B subsequently followed up on five different occasions and received varying feedback ranging from the contact person is on leave, is busy – please call back later, will call him back( and never did) and wasn’t available to take his call.
This got him thinking varied thoughts; one that the apology had been taken back; two that the offer of a gifts was to bamboozle him; three that they had taken a stance to ignore him until he goes away; four that they thought he was absolutely wasting their time; five that they thought he’s not patient enough for their taste; and lastly that they thought he’s nagging them and wished that he would just leave them alone!
He further inferred a couple of things: one that it was by far the worst apology he’s ever received; that their wish to ignore him until he went away was granted for he’d decided to leave the matter alone; that they would scour the market for another diaper provider; that if they’d rescinded their apology that was alright – he’d donate the diapers bought and look for a substitute; if he’d done something to warrant the mal treatment he’d apologize and still go away; and that he was duped by the nice apology until the real colours of the brand showed up after!
He took the time to let them know all this in the email that he roped me into.
Being the customer service enthusiast that I am, I marveled at this service failure wonder and also took the time to respond to the brand reps to let them know that this made fantastic fodder for a case study of a brand chasing away customers at top speed into the laps of their competitors. I also took to social media to let the brand and the world know that it is indeed quite the phenomenon for a make good to failure to materialize as a make good for a make good situation. This by any customer service standards is the rock bottom.
Mr. B and his wife felt embarrassed, frustrated, bruised, battered and trampled upon by the brand. How can a brand succeed in eliciting this level of emotional disengagement from a customer? At the very least the customer should feel disappointed right? Should a brand surely cause a customer embarrassment????
Let’s just say that after that email – someone miraculously appeared in Mr. B’s office with a gift hamper which he promptly turned down. It was never about the gift he emphasized. The regional headquarters has also immediately responded on Twitter requesting that they are really apologetic about the matter and would like to see what to do to resolve it. The local office also quickly got in touch to have a further conversation where the CEO himself has promised to have a meeting with his staff and get in touch with Mr. B.
The questions that abound as always are
  • ·         Does it have to get this bad for brands to respond to customer needs?
  • ·         Don’t brands appreciate the need to respond immediately to service failure to turn it around?
  • ·         Does the customer need to be left with such an acrid taste in their mouths to then shout to feel heard?

What will it take for brands to realize that their biggest and most effective brand and marketing tool is the voice of a happy customer. And even more so the louder voice of a customer whose issue has been resolved and has been turned into a raving fan?
To all out there in the customer service fraternity – we have our work cut out for us!
For now, I wait to see what the ending to this Afro-Cinema/Mexican Soap will be so that we may pen in the script ending……………………