Most times when a company kills their brand it is through a steady decline. The kind of loyalty to unloyalty that Scott talks about in his excellent post over there.
There are also those occasions where the brand goes from king of the world to “wouldn’t touch that in a hazmat suit” bad overnight, such as BP.
Despite the “overnight OMG” effect, brands are often resiliant things. People are making a big deal about the Apple iPhone 4 Antenna Issue as if this could be their downfall, but in my view Apple loyalty seems solid despite what the media would like us to believe, which shows how years of commitment to quality can be a powerful thing.
The customer nightmares that stick with us though are when we feel a personal impact. It might be an afront, an outrage, upset or just failing to live up to expectations.
I wanted to set up a hosting account for a throwaway project, keeping this new project isolated as much as possible from my other sites. At some point I might want to jettison or offload the whole thing, and I remember how tricky it was to extricate myself from my photography blog when I sold it (people still contact me about it thinking I own it). This needed to be reliable but not spectacular, it was not core to my business like chrisg.com is.
A $10 a month product for something you are not sure you will persue is not one you do much research over, so I went with friends and clients recommendations. It seemed a no-brainer, I had heard so many good things about this particular hosting company that I thought I would give them a try.
After a few attempts (seems Google Chrome is yet to become a browser developers test on) I finally thought I had the account set up.
Then I got an email asking for my passport or drivers license.
They needed me to prove who I was.
For a $10 a month account.
I had the option of calling their USA customer service line to prove my identity also. At the time I was traveling and didn’t think their service was worth making an international call on a hotel or cell phone for.
So I did what many a social media fan would do, I whined and stamped my feet on Twitter, and I got refunded.
Was I unreasonable? Possibly. I might agree if I wasn’t already SUPER happy with my current hosting company who are not only responsive and reliable but have never asked for any goverment issued ID. Their service is worth much more than $10 a month by the way.
Now if anyone asks me what I think about this particular cut-priced hosting company, I will tell them I have heard great things but my personal experience with them sucked and that it felt they treated me like a potential criminal. I would much rather be telling people how wonderful they were.
It makes me wonder what kind of background checks I would have required to endure if I wanted a dedicated server. I’m not sure the national health hospitals have the equipment to provide a full DNA analysis …
What lesson can we learn for our own business?
I think the main takeaways are:
- Most people are honest, and your customers should not be treated otherwise unless there is a good reason.
- When mitigating risks you should use appropriate, reasonable measures that do not put extra burden on brand new customers. This is a poor first impression.
- A potential loss of a missed payment could be better option than a severley disapointed potential advocate telling anyone who will listen their story.
If you are in a commodity business, this kind of minor issue can become a major pain in the bottom … line. Becoming so unique and differentiated that you can not be compared as a commidity is one remedy that I would advise anyway, but do not use that as an excuse to see every transaction as a chance your customer might rip you off, otherwise those customers will find an alternative.
These events are good because it makes me think how I behave in my own business and where I could improve first impressions. We need to continually see things from our customers perspectives and treat them as they would like to be treated.
Have you had a customer experience where experience did not meet expectations? Please share in the comments …