Big brands are quick to communicate their “brand promise” across marketing channels. With the rapid evolution and near total adoption of social media marketing, it is now much faster and easier to communicate with your stakeholders. What the big boys need to keep in mind, however, is that actions do speak louder than words. Your website, company blog, Facebook and Twitter pages can say great things about your commitment to quality, customer service, blah, blah, blah…but if your target audience does not see this reflected in actual experience with your brand then you have a problem on hand; and a tough one at that.
Let me share with you my recent personal experience that really made me think about how much a callous, negligent attitude to customer service can tarnish a brand’s image. A few weeks ago, I lost my AmEx card that entitled me to have access to airport lounges around the world. The card was an airline loyalty card specific to Air Canada and provided unfettered access to any Air Canada lounge around the world. American Express promptly replaced my card (I even picked it up). My replacement card, however, did not show my membership to the airline loyalty program. When I mentioned it to AmEx they confirmed that my file would show my membership when scanned at the Air Canada lounge. They further reassured me that in the event Air Canada could not see the details, a quick call to American Express would resolve the issue. So far, so good…
On my flight out to Cape Town, I had no problem at all entering the Air Canada lounge in Toronto. On my return trip 10 days later, I arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris after an 11 hour flight. After checking in I promptly made my way to the Air Canada lounge hoping to take it easy for my next leg of the journey which was due in 4 hours. The lady at the desk scanned my AmEx card and said, “Non Monsieur, you cannot enter.” I explained to her that a quick phone call to American Express would resolve the problem. After a very stern lecture about having the wrong card she asked me to step outside and wait for her “boss” to come in. So 20 minutes later, her boss, a Cedric T informed me that he could not help me as my card was the wrong one. He did not even care to listen to the fact that this was a replacement card and that all they had to do was call AmEx to confirm that my membership allowed me access to their lounge.
I took matters in my own hands and called from my own phone. The two Air Canada employees could clearly hear that AmEx was confirming that the membership is active and entitled me to full access. After the call, the “boss’ Cedric T gave me a second lecture about not having the right card and promptly informed me that he was doing me a favour by letting me in. This whole incident was diligently recorded by American Express customer service and they profusely apologized for the treatment by Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge staff at CGG airport.
Air Canada has been vocal about using social media to further enhance the positive experience for its clients. I’d like to see if their listening post is working as it should. Here’s what they say in Air Canada’s Corporate Policy and Guidelines on Business Conduct: “Our customers trust us to provide quality products and services. We always act in a courteous, friendly and constructive manner when dealing with customers.” Always?
Sometimes all it takes is a few Cedric Ts of this world to undo a lot of hard work at the corporate level. Organizations must never lose sight of the fact that good, consistent customer service goes a long way. Happy customers will share positive experiences on third-party social media channels or even on the airline’s Facebook and Twitter pages. It’s always more credible and effective when your customers speak for you than when you shout from the control tower yourself!
Do you have in place a corporate policy that encourages staff to practice what you preach as a company? Do you act upon feedback received through social forums? Have you seen customer testimonials come through via social media networks? How do you leverage these for brand marketing?