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Holiday Marketing: The Customer is Always Right

Whether you’re a community manager or just someone that needs a good chuckle, this customer service fail story is the perfect example of what NOT to do this holiday season. Shitty brand experiences are inevitable. It's how you handle them that will make or break your brand experience.

I love me a marketing customer service fail story. They never get old! I've been in the B2CC game almost 12 years now and few things shock me. So you can imagine my dismay when I was on the receiving end of a customer service snafu. I'm not going to give away the company because we're all human and mistakes get made. But in sharing this story, I hope you take a lesson or two as we head into the cray this is holiday shopping season!

At the beginning of April (a mere two or so weeks after COVID shut everything down), I received a big ol' box of coffee from one of my favorite coffee shops. Inside were NINE bags of some of my favorite flavors. Sure, Almond Amoretto was kind of odd but I rolled with it. My first thought was, "My Boston gals are the sweetest!" figuring they sent me my favorite bags to remind me of Boston and that I'm loved. After a quick "thank you! "text to the group, it was determined my friends in fact do not love me and did not send the coffee.

Ok. Second guess... obviously my mom. Strike two. Turns out she does not love me either. Alright, obviously this came directly from the brand. I've been a loyal buyer for the past two years and this clearly was what I like to call a "surprise and delight" situation. What a fabulous touch, no name coffee brand. Touche!

I go on with my life, happily making delicious coffee every morning, telling myself, I really need to write this brand a thank you email. It was a few days later I got a voicemail, from the coffee brand, telling me there's been a mistake and to call them immediately. Hmmm. My first thought was...I'm a millennial, please do not call me ever again. My second thought was "mistake"?! I thought you loved me! Here's the follow-up email I got to my voicemail:

Ex-squeeze me? You want to send back the coffee?! And not only that, send it directly from my house to the intended recipient?! Friends, I was pretty livid. Regardless of COVID, this request is absurd. Add in the complexity of COVID and this request is bat shit cray. Plus, as I admitted above, I already dipped into the beans!

Here's my response:

Is this a tad dramatic? Sure. I bcc'd 10 friends so I had an audience, OK? But the fact of the matter is, this brand handled their mistake all sorts of wrong, starting with the voicemail urging me to be home in time to receive a return shipping tag. What could have been a nice little treat as a loyal customer turned into me no longer being a shopper.

Here's the response I got:

At the end of the day, while I got to keep the "mistake" coffee, the whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Key Takeaways:

  1. If YOU screw up on the shipping/ordering side... eat it, and move on.

  2. When you get the opportunity to talk to a customer one-on-one, this is your time to shine bright like a diamond, baby! Even when the customer is slightly annoying, and especially when you are in the wrong, take it deep and wow their snarky little socks off.

  3. In my response to this brand, I cc'd 10 of my family and friends. Soooowy. Assume that anything you say will go on the internet or worse shared with a customer's inner circle. Re-read #2 out loud! Ain't nobody got time for that bad PR!

Look, if you have a customer-facing gig at your company, I pray for you on the daily. It's hard friggin' work! Trust me, I have a whole book worth of stories I plan to publish one day. But if you put the customer first, and truly treat them like they could be your greatest ambassador, 9 times out of 10 you're going to turn a fan into a life-long customer.


About the Author: Founder. Dreamer. Master of None. It's been 9 years since Jules has been paying off her Master's Degree in Social Work loans—zero years of which have involved doing actual Social Work. Instead, she's built a career decoding the puzzle that is the internet and digital marketing. Experienced. Humble. Often burned by auto-correct. Jules created Rolling Hills Media so she could write her own rules and to help brands do the same.

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