Last day of the year and it falls on a TunesDay. I looked up the most read post with that theme and it was one from this past July when the Mrs. and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. Not content to let that speak for itself, I turned to a rock classic to talk about relationships between our businesses and our customers. I hope you enjoy it (again!) and please have a safe New Year’s Eve. See you on the other side.
It’s Tunesday! Today is a special one for me since it’s the 35th anniversary of the day the Mrs. and I got married. Because of that, I wanted a song from roughly the time when we got married that’s also a love song. What popped into my head this morning is “Let’s Stay Together“, a hit for both Al Green and Tina Turner. The two hits actually happened on either side of our wedding date and I’m very aware that a lot of folks use this as a wedding song (we didn’t – Embraceable You, as I recall…). I’ve always thought that Al Green’s version was way too low-key for the passion of the song and the video below is a live Tina Turner version which captures the song’s essence:
So what’s this got to do with business? Actually, quite a bit. You see, trying to stay together is what all of us do as businesses – with our customers, our team, and our vendors:
Let’s, let’s stay together
Lovin’ you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad
The one thing that makes a relationship last is the trust that you’re standing on certain ground. As the lyric says, you may go through bad times as well as good but never wondering about the underlying connection is crucial. A customer with issues may not be happy but they’ll stay a customer if they trust you’re working to resolve their problem. They want to hear “let me be the one you come running to”, not “I’m unable to help you.”
At its core, a relationship of any sort involves an investment of some sort. While there is a lot of sanity in not throwing good money (literally and figuratively) after bad, it’s generally easier to keep a customer than to find new ones. A commitment to trying to stay together makes that happen. That’s how you celebrate 35 years as partners!
Continuing to reblog the posts that got the most readership this past year, we come upon a post from just a month ago. This one concerned the retailers who fined a customer over a negative review. Genius! In the month since this was written, things have continued to slide downhill for the KlearGear folks, with lawsuits being the least of their worries. Tens of thousands of negative articles have been written about this mess and it remains a fantastic lesson is what NOT to do in resolving customer complaints.
You might have heard about KlearGear.com, a $47million online retailer of what they call geek toys and goodies. They deserve the aforementioned Darwin Award for resolving a dispute with a customer in a manner that will, in my opinion, destroy their business. Let’s see what you think.
A customer ordered something from the company way back in 2008 which didn’t arrive. The customer then posted a negative review on the web. Nothing very unusual about this so far, I know. What happened next is. Some genius at KlearGear decided it would be a good idea to “fine” the customer $3,500 for disparaging the company, citing a clause in their site’s Terms Of Service that wasn’t even in those terms in 2008. When the customer didn’t pay, they reported the $3,500 as a bad debt to credit reporting agencies, trashing the customer’s credit rating. You can read the gory details here.
Unfortunately for the retailer, the customer fought back and looks set to win a $75,000 judgement against the company. Frankly, that’s the least of the retailer’s worries. The torrent of negative commentary on social media has prompted the company to hide its Twitter account and to close off other social points of contact because of the overwhelming response. Of course, by going into hiding the company has pretty much destroyed its own reputation on the web. My guess is that the rest of the business will follow.
This began with a $20 item. Instead of accepting that there was a problem – perhaps even one of the customer’s own making (which it wasn’t) – and apologizing, KlearGear escalated the problem. The lost $20 sale is now a potential $75,000 liability which pales by comparison to the millions of dollars of negative coverage they’re receiving. As we’ve said before, when you’re doing business the right way, the need to moderate or control customer feedback doesn’t exist. If your product or service is great, so too will be the general commentary about you on the web and social. We’ve also talked about how it’s easier and more profitable to sell to repeat customers than to find new ones. That’s a huge reason why the best retailers go out of their way to minimize (or get rid of!) bad customer experiences.
This is a textbook case on how not to handle customer service or bad reviews. It’s about as bad as it gets and reached new depths of business stupidity. You agree?
It’s Foodie Friday and since we’re reviewing the most read posts of the year I’m combining the two. I’m also cheating a little. The most read food-related post this year wasn’t written for our Friday Foodie Fun. It was the post about finding a thumb tack in clam chowder. This post, originally titled Recipes And Business, was actually written just before the Giants played in the Super Bowl in 2012 and was, in fact, the most-read foodie post this year. Nice to know it has legs and it did way better than the Giants this year! Enjoy.
Many of you will be cooking something for Sunday’s big game and so this Foodie Friday we’ll think a little bit about what recipes to follow. Actually, it’s more about how one follows any recipe, and what that has in common with business.
Image via Wikipedia
As I think you might know, my feeling about cooking is that it’s more like jazz while baking is more Baroque music– far more structured and precise. Given that, the way I see recipes might differ from how you see them and how that perspective carries into business. Let’s see.
A recipe is a guide, not an edict. I look at them as outlines of the dish, but it’s up to me as the cook to insert the flavors I want to present. For example, if I’m making chili for Sunday’s game, I know that most of the folks who will be at the party enjoy fairly hot food so I might change the spice mix accordingly. Cooking veal cutlets for 20 can be expensive but turkey cutlets in the same recipe can be just as tasty. With a vegan and a vegetarian as members of the household here, I often modify recipes to accommodate their eating styles too. I have a sense of the destination and the recipe is the map, but there are often many routes to get to where I’m trying to go.
Business is the same. There are some basic road maps – take in more than you spend, treat customers and employees well – but every business is different. Sticking to the recipe isn’t always possible, and sometimes the road we wish to take is closed, but with a good understanding of fundamental techniques and enough knowledge of the building blocks (ingredients), one can cope with changing market conditions and take advantage of opportunities (I was going to make snapper but look at the fresh grouper on sale!) that might arise.
So as you’re whipping up that pot of gumbo, maybe try thickening it with okra instead of your usual file powder. If you’re not having much luck using SEM for online commerce, maybe social media can be more efficient. It’s jazz – learn to improvise – oh, and Go Big Blue!