Saying Sorry is Good for Business

Courtesy of Josh Bomb

As a PR professional and spokesperson, I tend to monitor what's being written in the Forum pages of newspapers and the responses by organisations to public complaints and grouses. You can learn a lot about a company by how it positions its reply and the tone of voice in which this is done. More often than not, they tend to be polite but defensive.

Sadly, many companies in Singapore prefer to protect their organisational interests rather than that of their consumers or clients. What do I mean by that?

First, they spend huge sums of money to advertise, market and promote themselves as the coolest, hippest and greatest. They conduct focus group after focus group to determine what customers want. They engage top notch market research firms to obtain razor sharp (well at least that's what they think) analytics on their prospective customers. They create brand-rich aesthetically pleasing environments that awe you the moment you step into their shop fronts.

What happens when they screw up? More often than not, customers have to maneuver through an obstacle course to seek redress. And this is often done grudgingly by the lowest ranking staff in the pecking order.

Consider this fine example by J.Crew which is highlighted by Church of the Customer's Jackie Huba. The company's e-commerce website faced problems and they decided to quickly face up to it. What's especially heartwarming is the note below which came not from the customer service manager or PR director but the CEO and President themselves.

Other than the email above, customers who experienced difficulties were given some form of compensation (though this was subject to the levels of severity). I think this does infinitely more for a company's brand than endless ads and numerous in-your-face posters spouting superficial superlatives!

As highlighted by one of the commenters on Jackie's post, the best example of corporate apologies must come from Johnson and Johnson with the Tylenol Poisoning Case. After seven people died from ingesting cyanide-laden Tylenol in 1982, the company issued a nationwide recall of Tylenol products which cost it an estimated retail value of over US$100 million. It even took up ads to tell everybody not to consume any products that contained Tylenol.

Not only did Tylenol (and J&J) not keel over, but both the brand and the company grew stronger than ever with Tylenol becoming the most popular over-the-counter analgesic in US!

Now tell me friends, is it really that difficult to eat humble pie, say sorry and meant it through your actions?

Update: Contrast the examples above with what Faerie Imp experienced here with a courier service from hell. I can totally empathise with her!

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