A Tale of Two Brands

April 12, 2012 by Mike Behr

The Impact of Customer Complaint Resolution

A Tale of Two Brands

As a wise colleague of mine used to preach “every interaction with your brand is a chance to keep or break your brand promise.” Resolving customer complaints, issues or disputes is one of those types of interactions. And while trying to placate disgruntled customers is as old as commerce itself, in this age of social media, how well (or poorly) you deal with your customers’ dissatisfaction can have a big impact on your brand.

A couple months ago I attended an evening event hosted by a group called Capital Innovators at a restaurant, Copia, in downtown St. Louis. Our new company, Click With Me Now was being honored along with nine other startups that Capital Innovators had accepted into their mentoring and funding program.

My wife met me down there and valeted her car as I had advised her to do based on the lack of parking that evening. She pulled up to the front of the restaurant under the Copia sign to where the “Valet Parking” booth was, left her car with the valet and joined me inside. After the event we both retrieved our cars and went home.

About 6 weeks later, we received a fine for $150 from the City of St. Louis for illegally parking in a bus zone. The fine was originally $25 but due to additional penalties for late payment, the amount increased significantly. Upon looking at a copy of the original infraction, we of course found it to be the date of the event at Copia. But, lo and behold, there was no ticket on her vehicle when she left that night nor did the valet mention anything about one.

Must have conveniently blown out from under the windshield wiper.

Naturally she called the restaurant immediately and spoke with a manager but came away completely flustered. They claimed no responsibility for the valet seeing as how it was a “hired service” by the restaurant. They also did not offer to contact the valet company to try and help us resolve the issue. She then tried the valet company several times and couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone, and she never received a call back after leaving multiple messages. After escalating the issue with Copia to the most senior manager, they reluctantly agreed to reimburse us for the fine if we faxed them both the fine and payment receipt.

No apologies, no gift certificate for our troubles.


Two weeks later we did finally receive a check from Copia.

Guess what?

It bounced.

It turns out that our hosts that evening, Capital Innovators, were also frustrated with their experience with the restaurant as well.

At least they’re consistent!

So what do you think my brand perception is of Copia?

Conversely, Jim, a colleague of mine at GRA | MATR, who has a very nice sports SUV, had the rear tires on his vehicle wear through after only a few thousand miles. Jim purchased a warranty when he bought the tires, so he contacted Discount Tire Direct where he ordered the tires from several months ago. After explaining the situation to the customer service representative, the man very nicely asked Jim if he had an alignment done at the time the tires were installed.

He did not.

Unfortunately that meant that the uneven wear on the tires was due to the alignment issue and not the quality of the tires and therefore not covered under the warranty.

Poor Jim. Right?

Well, sensing Jim’s frustration and disappointment, the customer service rep empathetically explained that he recognized that the tires were very expensive (we are talking $400 each!) and wanted to help. He then told Jim he would send two replacement tires at no cost. Jim is now a customer for life and has been advocating the Discount Tire Direct brand to everyone he knows (including me of course).

So here I am writing a blog post, which will be shared with all of my twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and facebook friends and followers. Think of these two stories the next time you are working with a customer or client to resolve a situation where they are not satisfied with your product or service.

A dissatisfied customer is a great opportunity to learn about possible flaws or weaknesses in your product, gain consumer insights, and turn customer dissatisfaction into brand advocacy.

Other than Nordstrom, Zappos and Apple, what other brands come to mind that offer outstanding customer service and problem resolution?


Mike Behr
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Vice President/Strategy and Brand Development of GRA | MATR

  • On April 12, Sal Bocchino said:

    Thank you Mike!

    It certainly is a “Buyer Beware” world we live in.

    Unfortunately it continues that way for some but it’s always good to know there are still good business people who care as does Discount Tire Direct.

    Keep them coming…

    BEST 2U,

  • On April 12, Matt Jeter said:

    You said it! “A dissatisfied customer is a great opportunity to… turn customer dissatisfaction into brand advocacy.” How a business or brand deals with adversity is more telling than how they handle success.

  • On April 12, Mike Behr said:

    Thanks for feedback Sal and Matt.

  • On April 12, Jenn Sewell said:

    Well said, Mike!

    I would take it a step further, though. Every interaction we have with people, whether we are a front-line employee or not, impacts our company and our own brand name. Whenever someone complains about service or a problem, we each need to make them feel heard and do what we can to help resolve the issue.

    Also, whenever we are interacting with someone we need to remember who we are speaking to and speak with that thought in mind. How we would explain something to an executive is different than you would explain something to a front-line employee… both have needs for information, but they are different.

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