How Breaking a Customer Promise Can Hurt Your Brand

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How Breaking a Customer Promise Can Hurt Your Brand

Your company’s brand represents the value customers receive when they interact with your business. It’s a promiseWhen you choose to purchase from us, this is what we will deliver to you.

Thumbs-Down1-300x299When you break that promise – through defective products, shoddy workmanship, or poor service – you might lose the customer.

And in this age of social media, you might also lose your reputation. Remember the musician who made a YouTube video about United Airlines breaking his guitar? It got more than 12 million views and spawned a whole culture of people creating videos to showcase their service complaints.

How can you avoid making service mistakes that hurt your brand? And what can you do if those mistakes happen? Here are four insights from my recent experience for your smart marketing strategy.

The U-Haul “Reservation” that Wasn’t

We recently rented a truck from U-Haul for a one-day, one-way move. The reservation was made weeks in advance and confirmed a few days before the move date. On our way from Cleveland, Ohio to the rental office at D Jay’s Service Center near Columbus, Ohio, we called to say we were en route.

But when we got to D Jay’s, our truck was gone. Though our reservation form didn’t indicate it, apparently there was a set pickup time. When we arrived past the pickup time, we found that D Jay’s had rented “our” truck to someone else – even though we’d called that morning to confirm we were on our way. No other trucks were available.

U-Haul finally got a truck for us four hours later, but the damage was done. We’ll never again rent from U-Haul. And because I’m on Facebook and Twitter – and I’m a marketing consultant who is using this example in my blog on marketing strategy and customer relationships – thousands of people may hear this one customer’s story.

No One’s Perfect – and Social Media Can Make it Worse

All companies make mistakes and many customers will forgive and forget. But many won’t.

Unhappy customers who used to gripe to their immediate family and friends now can share their dismay with everyone. When your company makes an error, social media can dramatically magnify the problem.

4 Lessons for Your Smart Marketing Strategy

Here are four lessons about avoiding service mistakes and mitigating the impact on your brand when your employees or distributors goof up:

  1. Train your entire team about what your brand promise means. It’s no accident that companies with great brands have great people who consistently deliver excellent service. Make sure everyone who interacts with your customers understands your brand promise and how to make that promise real for every customer every day.
  2. Admit it when you screw up. If your company makes a mistake, be upfront about it. Don’t blame the customer or come up with lame excuses. It never works.
  3. Make it right. Show your customer why this error was an aberration by fully resolving the problem. If you do this right, the customer might tell a very positive story about their experience with you on social media.
  4. Monitor and respond to social media complaints involving your brand. When an unhappy customer posts something negative online about an experience with your company, respond immediately. Be empathetic, then attempt to take the conversation offline so you can resolve the complaint.

How will U-Haul respond when (if) they read this blog post? It will be interesting to find out.


  • Jon

    I’m interested. Any word from Uhaul?

    July 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm
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