The Power or the ApologyI floated this precept in a number of the conversations I had with marketing leaders this week. It was quite amazing to hear that so many brands do not “apologize” in ANY situation. They believe in a strict adherence to corporate operational and marketing protocols. These protocols dictate how, when, and if a brand can take responsibility for a temporal foible that may or may not resolve the issue. So instead of saying something small (“The Power of Small”) or something nice (“The Power of Nice”) to set the tone for the conversation/interaction, some brands always initiate the conversation with a corporate dictate to “understand” the situation. “Let me look into this for you” is the refrain -- the cacophony of the situation does not ever lead to proactive engagement as the issue is never documented in a manner that leads to rectification.

I have had a long-running issue with two large brands that supply home improvement and home entertainment products and, if I documented the interactions (lack thereof) most would be shocked at the lack of opportunity to engage, listen, or create beneficial “experiences” through their “process.” Most would be shocked with alacrity at the perceived haughtiness I received from both brands; yet I decided to pay a visit to the physical location to address this with a customer service clerk who I knew personally. The first thing she said was, “SORRY!” and that was followed by “Let me look into this for you.” Her ability to read the situation and understand that inasmuch as I was mad, I just wanted the issue resolved and to convey to the brand that it was not my fault, my time was valuable, and I was tired of the “rabbit hole” the detailed notes in its CRM (disengagement engine) was causing.

Think about this in the context of a relationship you have with a loved one, someone you cherish. If you are somewhat rational (as we know many people are not) and your spouse/significant other is in a disagreement and that person (or you) starts the interaction with “sorry”, think about how that sets the tone for the discussion. Not, “let me look into this.” I think it is better to apologize first as the release of endorphins has been shown to have a powerful calming effect and enables the contact to be positive. When do you communicate more effectively? When you are calm or upset on the way to angry/pissed off? 

The Issue Is Perception.

I was speaking with the CMO of a large data analytics company this week and we had a very direct and poignant discussion about some of the lack of performance that some in his organization had with our organization. The individual has enjoyed working with us from the start and has attained a great deal of benefit from our relationship, yet his team was concerned about performance in one situation. The facts are documented and could be debated, yet as this gentleman so succinctly stated, “I am not as concerned about the facts and we know that perception is reality.” Amazing point! Perception is the “reality” that drives the emotional decisions and is challenging to measure. This was followed by an apology and a determination by me to make things “right.” Blaming or addressing the perceived facts would not have lessened the onus of the situation that fell directly on me. 

The Airline that listened and measured.

This week was a very interesting week to listen to a number of “Memorial Day” challenges from the brands. It was quite interesting to hear the perspective of an airline that is trying to understand their customer and has used a multi-channel VOC/feedback process in quite a proactive manner to improve the efficacy of its customer loyalty program, as well as its customer engagement strategy from first contact throughout the life of the customer relationship. The airline has changed its programs in a variety of ways that led to significant measureable customer experience improvements.

This is even more unique as the challenges of participation in the travel industry loyalty program was addressed in a recent webinar by Loyalty 360 and Colloquy, Loyalty Program Growth: For Better or Worse?

I will touch on this more next week. 


Written By:  Mark Johnson, CEO, Loyalty 360 - The Loyalty Marketer's Association

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