Category Archives: Customer Satisfaction

How to Handle Bad Service

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5 Year Old Given Steroids by Pharmacy

I can’t really add much to this story other than “wow!”  A shocking case of a mistake.  I do think it was honestly a mistake, probably by an over worked understaffed pharmacy, so what can you expect other than mistakes to happen in such cases. 

 

Talking to a pharmacist friend, costs and profits are the motive behind actions, not care.  I tend to see that in a business where care is vital, the profits usually follow if you give the best care you can.  Too bad the corporate heads don’t seem to realize this, maybe the millions paid out in the lawsuit that I’m sure is to follow, will help them see the light.

Story Link HERE

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Modern Customer Service Practices

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Best Buy Sued for $54 Million over Lost Laptop

Raelyn Campbell is my consumer hero of the month.  She had enough of Best Buy showing just how bad their service can be and sued them for $54 million.  It is very extreme but unfortunately based on my experience and the experience of others; this is pretty much the only way to get Best Buy to respond to your needs and their service promise.

 

I think it is time consumers’ show that they will not tolerate breaking of service promises.  Best Buy in their own commercials promise be best service and best products.  Yes I will agree they have a nice selection in some categories, but the service, very much lacking in pretty much every category.  And I happen to live near a “model store” so I can only guess how bad it can be at a poor performing store. 

 

I hope more consumers follow Raelyn’s example and speak up and take action when a company does not keep their service promise.  After all, the service premium is built into every product so you are paying for it, you should get it what is promised.

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The End of Brand

It was going to happen sooner or later and the Mattel recall finally did it for many.  The end of the illusion brand is here.  And it’s a really good thing too!  I don’t mean the concept of branding is dead, I mean the idea of using brands as a smoke and mirrors tactic is over as some consumers are now becoming aware of what a brand really is to many companies.  In essence, the brand they use is not a very good type of branding, and with that, perhaps we can move on to a better use of branding, one that actually ensures a strong connection with consumers and is what it claims it is.

 

Mattel’s brand relies on quality, traditions of American icons and safe toys that parents can trust.  All of this is false.  This is what we call a brand disconnect.  Mattel outsourced its manufacturing to overseas manufactures, Mattel has agreements but a contract doesn’t actually mean anything if you don’t do anything to enforce it.  So we have seen millions of toys recalled because the quality isn’t there.  The brand fails this aspect of its promise.

 

An American icon?  Back when Barbie was made in American, yes, now, no.  Sure I loved my Hot Wheels as a kid, tough metal toys that could take a beating, these Hot Wheels today are cheap and a few good hits and your kid can be a toy car mechanic.  A name and logo doesn’t make a product, Mattel did that and it failed.  Barbie and Hot Wheels are not traditional American toys anymore, the people making a dollar a day don’t really care about the history of these toys, what they mean to people, they just know they get a pay check for making them and that’s that.  For this, the brand promise fails.

 

Safe toys?  There was a time you could trust Mattel for a safe product without question.  Sure now and then they had a problem but we believed that was the exception, not the norm.  Today, you have to wonder.  Mattel has very little control over its suppliers and we know this, you don’t have millions of recalled toys if there is just a small problem now and then.  Since Mattel has lost control of it’s safety standards, it fails this part of its brand promise as well.

 

This all adds up to a total brand disconnect.  This is mainly due to the philosophy of branding employed.  For most who don’t understand branding, it is not a concept like accounting where you have agreed upon standards, it’s very wide actually with many schools of thought and ways to use.  The type of branding you see with Mattel is actually very common among the multinationals and they do it because for the most part, you the consumer fall for it.  Don’t think this is limited to Mattel or toys, this is widespread and as people start looking closer at more products, you’ll see this is actually surprisingly widespread and for a good reason, it makes money.

 

Generally what is done is, a shell game is played, a brand is held up as being one thing, when in fact it is quite another.  I was out shopping and saw a product that said “An American Company”  yes it was based in the US but made overseas.  Was that nice shiny red paint up to US standards of being lead free?  Who knows, you can’t tell without testing it which means you have to buy it!   But would most consumers even notice it isn’t made in America.  With the “American Company” phrase all over the box and American flags, it really looks like it is American made, but it’s not.  Enough people do get fooled by this and buy it, not really looking at the fine print. 

 

A lot of this was done during the 90s and early part of this decade when companies like Wal Mart decided that low prices at any cost was the way to go.  You as consumers ate this up!  You loved the low prices and while I and others told you that those low prices came at a cost, you didn’t listen.  So now we have a situation on our hands where low prices often me, not up to regulatory standards and our definition of safe.  Are you sure that utensils set you bought is lead free?  How about those pant, are they on the list of clothing that has 900 times the safe level of chemicals?  They were certainly cheap, but what’s the price to you?  You don’t know, neither does the store you bought it from, the brand company that markets it or even probably the manufacturer.

 

What are the companies doing about it?  Most people feel that the consumer outrage will cause them to change.  Not really.  What’s going on is they want to change the regulations so what they are having made, gets in legally.  Don’t expect Mattel to build plants in the US and start making toys here again.  Don’t expect Wal Mart to realize that their demanding of production be sent overseas is the reason why 70% of Americans can’t make ends meet at the end of the month because that nice factory job got replaced with a lower paying service job.  See the real savings wasn’t for you the consumer, it was for the corporation.  When they ship overseas, they now don’t have all the overhead they had here and that means better margins and if you are CEO, you like better margins.  That means bigger bonuses, so do you really expect these companies to give up the personal gain they are making off this branding bait and switch they are doing?

 

More people are realizing this is what is going on and are disgusted, they feel cheated and they should!  They were lied to and it shows.  But you lied to yourself as well.  Back in 1999 when I was writing on this topic, people told me that low prices will only help the consumer, lead to better choices.  Better choices?  If you like lead, sure.  How about toxic fish?  Clothing with questionable chemicals?  Cough syrup, toothpaste, pet food from China anyone?  If you want quality you have to look beyond the price tag.  And many consumers did not do that nor did they stop to wonder what the impact all this would have, the race to the bottom was too good.  It’s like fast food, the value meal sounds like a good deal, but how many more hours on the treadmill is that going to cost you to super size it?  Not so great when you thinking of it that way.  And that’s what you need to do, start thinking of it in different ways and look at it in ways that get you seeing the whole value.  When you do that and vote with your dollars, branding will be forced to change, as the illusion branding tactics just don’t work when you change the rules and demand accountability and have a “show me” attitude.

 

Experiential branding is what I would use if I were in a market with competitors who have already been busted for tainted goods.  In fact any market with consumers who source overseas, doesn’t matter if you are in Canada, Panama, Germany, if you have competitors that source outside the area of your regulatory market, you are at risk.  Because as we see with Mattel, it’s not just Mattel that is being looked at, now all toy manufacturers are being looked at.  Experiential branding would save some, assuming they move fast.  It is like open book management for branding. You combine parts of operational branding and create an experience, where consumers can really interact with the brand, touch it, probe it know how it was really made.  Place the information about who made it.  I did this once where we have pictures and the stories of the manufacturers.  We showed people where the products came from, the actually people who made them and really made that connection all the way through the supply chain.  So that people really knew exactly where and who made their product.  People loved it, and they had faith in the product and the ROI per sale improved as a result.  We gained a lot of trust from consumers where as our competitors had little to nothing to show and couldn’t do that.

 

If consumers demand real change and vote with their dollars, this can change.  But if you continue to shop as you have been the last few decades and believe the brand without much question, don’t expect any change.  Companies are lazy for the most part, make them work for your money.  They say a citizen should never trust his or her government but always question the government and make the government prove its intention are good.  The same is true with companies; you shouldn’t believe a brand until it has proven it is what it claims it is.  When enough consumers do this, things will change.

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Filed under Branding, Business, Consumer Activism, Consumerism, Customer Satisfaction, Globalization, International Trade, Marketing, Recalls

Recall Conspiracy?

I have been hearing a lot of talk now that there must be a conspiracy going on against China goods, why all the recalls?  Well it is quite simple and easy to explain without the need to rely on conspiracy theories of any kind.  This isn’t anything new, we have known about it for a while, the problem with China goods.  Just look at the FDA’s own records, the fish problems have been going on for years. Nobody paid attention to it, until some pets got sick and people started looking around at other products.  This is natural.

 

Never underestimate the anger of pet owners whose beloved family member got sick from bad pet food.  China was the problem and the source.  It actually took some time for this to get rolling, very little in March or April.  Some news in May and then an explosion this summer in the form of massive recalls.  If you look at the way most trends, products or information gets spread, this follows a natural pattern.  A few early adopters notice, the trend setters catch on and then the masses. 

 

So we had a few people who caught on, then the trend setters and finally everyone is looking around every corner wondering if their product from China is safe.  Add to that, the products in question are for kids, that gets people’s attention!  When you mess with someone’s kids, you are asking for more trouble and people are now questioning anything from China, where as before they just believed the brand promise without question.  The alarm is sounded, this is going to get wider.  Which is a good thing because if it had gone unchecked, imagine if people became ill or worse from these products on a wide scale.  Remember the spinach scare last year?  I know a lot of people who do not eat spinach anymore.  The ball is rolling so this is here to stay, and with the Christmas season coming, you can be assured more testing is going to bring up more recalls.

 

I don’t have any sympathy for the producers or China; they failed in their brand promise to deliver us quality goods, which does imply a safe good.  They will have to work hard to earn the trust of consumers.  Which is a good thing, consumers should question their manufacturers about the products they sell.  That’s how consumers stay informed and keep producers focused on quality.

 

Why some people want to claim the recalls are a conspiracy are because they don’t fully understand how people as a group react to alarming information.  I’ve been watching this since the first story on pet food hit the media and this is not a conspiracy, it’s not even a fad, it moves too slow.  We haven’t even hit the peak yet.  The great thing is, companies are taking advantage of this and new channels for businesses are cropping up.  In fact I just read how a local supermarket is going locally grown for produce as a result of concerns about where produce come from and they are doing great.  This is great, consumer demands are being met.  It goes to show that when given a chance, consumers will pick quality over cheap goods. 

 If anything the above example probably shows if there is a conspiracy, it was on the part of big multinationals who claimed we were getting inexpensive goods by moving production to China.  Not really, just their profit margins got better, the prices didn’t get that much lower. 

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Filed under Branding, Business, China, Consumer Activism, Consumerism, Customer Satisfaction, Food, Globalization, International Trade, Recalls, The World, Trade

Chocolate, Flip Flops and Toys

Well a busy day for recalls, also a rather gross day. 

Now I never think of China when I think of chocolates but then that’s just me.  But for some unlucky shoppers in South Korea, they found a little something extra in their chocolates and it wasn’t a caramel center.  It was worms.

  

This is just breaking so it is hard to say where the worms entered into the chocolates, but it is still raising questions and the manufacture’s less than up front stand, only raised more questions.

  

A woman bought some flip flops from Wal Mart, only to experience what she says is basically a chemical rash burn on her feet.  According to some news sources, Wal Mart is finally pulling these off the shelves.  You can view the woman’s site, but I’ll warn you, it’s kind of gross at times.  

And finally, paint sets and crayons are being recalled, again, made in China.  I’ve lost count of how many children’s items have been recalled but the fact that it is in the millions already, is shocking enough.  And the fact most of the Christmas toys are already on their way, means we can probably expect a lot more.    

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Filed under Branding, Business, China, Consumer Activism, Consumerism, Customer Satisfaction, Food, Globalization, Health, International Trade, Marketing, Recalls, The World, Trade