Let Them Eat Cake!

I’m constantly amazed at the lengths to which some companies will go in order to alienate their customers. They may have clunky processes, poorly trained employees, or any of a multitude of customer-alienating practices.

But the one that really fries me most is when a company distrusts their customers. Sure, there are those customers who take advantage by doing such things as returning clothes after they’ve attended the prom, returning furniture after the party, etc. But those abusive customers are in the minority. Some companies, however, build rigid policies to protect themselves against the advantage-takers and end up alienating the majority of customers who would never dream of trying to rip off the company.

This all leads to a story a colleague shared regarding a damaged cake. When she contacted the company, it’s clear that the owner of the company didn’t trust the customer’s story, even though she offered to send a photo of the damaged cake. After reading her description of the event, click on the icon to see a photo of what she received (read the narrative first).

Today in the office a customer service nightmare unfolded. A bakery shipped a cake that arrived in such a mess the recipients couldn't tell what it was. They called the company to kindly let them know; the owner was angry that she'd done so and denied there was even a problem even though the recipient offered to send a photo of what she'd been delivered. It was a strange kind of denial and she got very defensive. What is happening now though is that the photo is circulating and the story is getting around, which will obviously hurt business.

Click HERE to see the photo!

Imagine how different this customer would've felt if the owner had sincerely expressed her dismay at the condition of the cake, apologized profusely, and immediately sent a replacement - which the customer didn't even ask for. My guess is that the next time this customer wanted to send a cake as a gift she would've immediately chosen this company because there would've been a high level of trust that things would turn out fine.

Instead, this customer is circulating the story, along with the photo and the company's name, to everyone she knows. Remember, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it costs to keep a current one. I hope this cake company has a big advertising budget.

Do your company policies ever penalize and alienate your honest, loyal customers because of the actions of the small fraction of customers who try to take advantage?

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