When you’re your own worst marketing nightmare

I’ve read a couple of posts recently about bad experiences with service and customer relations. Seth Godin wrote about a company that did some waterproofing for him, did a good job on the waterproofing, but left his basement in a complete mess.

His story had a good final outcome, though; because they called afterwards to ask him if he was happy with the work, and sent a team back to clean up their mess. They turned a bad last interaction into a good one.

Eric Edelstein wrote about a great breakfast he had at Kauai, but which left a bad taste in his mouth because their menu boards hadn’t been updated. He was charged R2 more than the price on display.

Whereas Kauai was an automatic choice for him before, he’s probably looking for alternatives now. He’s also told everyone he knows (and quite a few that he doesn’t) about his experience. Perhaps he wouldn’t have written about it if they had done what they should have and agreed to charge him the advertised price, but it still would have been worth the money to avoid the bad word-of-mouth.

The problem at a franchise like Kauai is that the people at the counter (or even managing the shift) probably don’t have the authority to make a decision like that. That’s a problem.

But I heard a bad marketing story this week that trumps that – in the extreme.

A friend at work took some newspaper cuttings to a shop at the top of Adderley Street to be laminated – nine broadsheets and three tabloid size pages. He counted them out, explained how he wanted them done and duly received a copy of the work order for 12 laminations.

However, when he went back to pick them up and pay (quite a lot), two of the smaller pages were missing. The receptionist simply denied that they’d ever been there, despite the fact that she’d just charged him for all 12. He managed at least to convince her to look for the missing two pages, but she made the most superficial of glances around the work area and casually asked the guy who did the work whether he’d seen them – he hadn’t.

But the bad experience didn’t end there. My friend obviously got very angry. He even shouted. And swore. The owner of the business’s response to his anger was to physically assault him. Quite the last interaction.

Not only has this guy generated some seriously bad word-of-mouth, he’s also now facing a charge of assault.

Now here’s what they should have done in that situation:

  1. Assume the customer is right. Considering the details on the work order, it’s not a huge leap.
  2. Be apologetic.
  3. Make a genuine and concerted effort to find the missing pages. Ask the customer exactly what was on the pages (headlines etc.).
  4. If they still can’t be found, apologise again.
  5. Offer to contact the relevant publishers to replace the missing the pages.
  6. Offer to laminate those pages free of charge (having reversed the charges for the missing pages on the original job).

My friend might not be singing the praises of the business if they did all those things, but he would be less inclined to spread the bad experience and – crucially – he would be more likely to return and give them a chance to improve on the last interaction.

Too late now.

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3 Responses to “When you’re your own worst marketing nightmare”


  1. 1 Eric Edelstein 2 February 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Physically insulted!! That’s shocking!!! Please keep us updated…Eric

  2. 2 ahazell 3 March 2008 at 4:28 pm

    A quick update: Apparently the public prosecutor has agreed to prosecute. The business owner was arrested last week.


  1. 1 Word-of-mouth( or -mouse) - bad news travels faster « Ant’s World Trackback on 24 July 2008 at 4:59 pm

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