Another Promotion That Backfired

Today’s post is reprinted with permission from our guest blogger, Rick Segel of Rick Segel and Associates.  He is one of the leading experts in retail marketing.

A reader sent me a story this week that I just had to share with you. Especially, since we are focusing on sales skills this month. However, before I get to the story, I want to share a couple of lessons first. Due to the current business climate, more retailers have been complaining about how cranky and irritable customers have become. That’s not a big surprise because people are upset with the economy, the losses in their worker’s 401K accounts, the fear of losing their jobs, and just the uncertainty of not knowing what to do. Is the economy rebounding or not?

Couple that with customers telling us that they aren’t going to buy anything, just because they aren’t in the mood. Well, the question is how do we get customers in the mood? The first rule is to control every time a customer has any contact with your business. Our past experiences with businesses set the tone and our mood. If the sales team is overly aggressive or pushy, then the next time the customer comes in they will have their guard up. If the sales people were upbeat, friendly, and helpful, then our attitudes and expectations change.

That is something we all know. We don’t always practice it but that’s just one of those accepted facts about business. What has changed is that our impressions to our customers are no longer limited to their last visit to the store. Now we have to worry about our Facebook entries, our Twitter comments, our emails, our websites and the impressions they give, and then the process the customer has to go through if they want to buy merchandise from your website.

Now let me share a reader’s tale.  This person is a big sports fan living in the Cleveland, Ohio area. However, being a fan of Cleveland teams has not been very rewarding. There has been nearly a 50 year drought of any major league team, The Browns, Indians, or the Cavs in basketball, winning any type of championship. But now the area has a true super star in the person of LeBron James. He just won the MVP Award from the NBA but what makes him so special is the level of maturity of this young man. He is only 24 years old, and is truly remarkable.  LeBron is a true leader and a very astute business man. He negotiated a contract $92 million contract with Nike when he was only 19 years old, without an attorney. (He fired the one he had)

A couple of days after LeBron won the MVP honor, Nike came out with an MVP Award T Shirt with the word Witness on it. LeBron made a statement a couple of years ago that he wanted the fans to “Witness Greatness”. So Nike, being the great marketers that they are, jumped on that statement and made the word “Witness” as part of the LeBron James mystique.

At the first game of the semi-final series, Nike gave away thousands of these shirts. Well it did exactly what Nike wanted. Everyone watching on TV wanted to buy one of these unique looking T Shirts. They were not being sold in stores yet and you could only buy them directly from the Nike website. The selling price was $30, plus shipping and handling. The worst part was that 2 days after the game, the Nike site was quoting 21 to 30 days for delivery. The orders must have been flying in. My reader went on line, ordered the T Shirt. The next morning the confirmation of the order was emailed. He was shocked that the cost of the shirt with shipping and handling came in just under $50.00. He rethought his purchase and decided to cancel the order. It was less than 12 hours after the order was placed. He found a phone number for customer service and called.

He was informed that he couldn’t cancel the order. He was also told it had been shipped. He questioned that because it said that there was a minimum of a 21-day delay. When he asked for the tracking number there wasn’t any tracking number. Then he was told that this shirt CAN NOT be cancelled or returned. He then asked for a supervisor and was told he couldn’t help and the shirt could not be cancelled. But the good news was that they found a shirt and would be sending it out immediately. Overnight delivery at the buyer’s expense. There were actually 6 calls made until he finally spoke to someone who understood what was happening and informed the buyer that they could return it.

At first the buyer was relieved but then he realized that he had to pay freight both ways and one was overnight shipping. Well the shirt was shipped and received the next day and he shipped it back on the same day. It cost him $28 for this adventure. I asked “Why didn’t you just keep the shirt?”

“That is the whole point of the story” he went on to explain. “I will never buy or wear anything Nike ever makes. How sleazy can they get?”  He is right. I can’t look at Nike quite the same way ever again. All of this great brand building to have some overly aggressive middle manger type do a good job in destroying it.  All over $30 T shirt. That’s dumb! Why did they have to lie?

Are your image and brand consistent? Are all of your contacts with your customers in alignment to what you believe? 

Just as an FYI, I was asked to share this story. But I am only one of many people who were asked. No one knows how many publications this might appear in. This is a person who knows how to make things happen. I applaud you for being proactive and sharing and exposing a really horrible customer service . Have a great week.

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