Archive for December, 2008

Challenging Times

growthIt’s nearly 2009 and the economic climate looks set to get worse before it gets better. However, as New Year dawns, it’s worth looking at the opportunities for businesses during these challenging times.

As many companies start to tighten their belts and lay off staff, what better time to stay ahead of the game, review strategies to deliver growth, maximise opportunities to excel where your competitors are weak and keep lines of communication with customers open…all the time.

Economic downturns are tough, but they do deliver opportunities for those who seek them out and are agile enough to implement change or activate strategies to deliver success. Don’t sit back and take it. Do something. Now!

December 29, 2008 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

Customer Service…at its worst

kind-to-eyes1As a marketer, you learn a lot from a bad customer service experience – the impact on the customer, the eagerness they feel to share their experience with others and how not to get it so wrong in your own business.

My most recent experience is with a company called Accantia. Not a company I’d heard of, though one with well known brands such as Wright’s and Cidal soaps and their best known brand, Simple.

Simple is quoted on thier website as “the leading brand of soap, skin care and toiletries products designed to respect the needs of sensitive skin”.

In fact one product in particular ‘Simple – Kind to Eyes Balm’ is stated to be “a perfect blend of active ingredients and multivitamins to reduce puffiness and refresh tired eyes. Perfect for even sensitive skin.”

Not so, I’m afraid. After a single use of a product costing around £4 I ended up with a hospital visit for eyes that were so swollen that I could barely see out of them, and to top it all, over £17 cost for prescriptions for steroid and antihistamine tablets and hydrocortizone creams.

As you can imagine, my first port of call was an e-mail to the company, Accantia on the Sunday evening, detailing the experience, the outcome and sending photographs of the hideous result of using ‘Simple Kind to Eyes Balm’.

By the following Thursday the company had failed to respond. I searched their website for an alternative contact point, to find only their PR Agency’s details at Beattie Communications. Credit to them they must have forwarded my details back to Accantia who responded on the Friday saying “Please accept our apologies in the delay in responding but having checked our e-mails, I am unable to locate your original e-mail.”

Interestingly, they actually responded as a reply to my original e-mail!

I was asked to reply giving my full details so that they could “deal with [my] enquiry in a professional manner”.

This I did and one week later I received a letter containing a £5 Boots voucher “entirely without prejudice” to “reimburse [me] for the product” but asking me to return the product at my own expense and complete a 2 page questionnaire regarding my experience.

 Lessons learned:

  • Respond to your customer queries and complaints within a realistic timeframe – maximum 1 working day
  • Do not deny receiving the original contact if you know this actually was not the case – emails, particularly, are easy to track
  • Refund in full any expense which results from the use of the product you supplied
  • Telephone the customer and engage in conversation – research can be done during this phone call and a friendly response from a professional and well briefed menber of staff can often placate an angry customer
  • Don’t ask the customer to do anything at their own expense to help your research
  • Where you take it from there is up to you as a business but get the basics right as a minimum
  • Remember, what was once word of mouth with a small group of friends, is now much broader, as people share experiences with larger communities via the web.

So the outcome for me? I won’t be purchasing ‘Simple’ products, that’s clear. I also won’t be recommending them.

Will I be completing the two page questionnaire and returning the product? It’s a difficult one to answer. From a marketer’s point of view, I am interested to see where this takes me and how they handle the issue. But from a personal perspective I am still too angry to help them, at my own expense, having already personally funded hefty presctiption charges as a result of their product.

What would you do?

December 20, 2008 at 5:42 pm 2 comments

The History of Stationery

pencilsIn a recent blogpost entitled ‘Stationery v Stationary’ I challenged agencies and potential employees to ‘up their game’ and check the fundamentals in their presentations when selling their wares to stationery or office products companies.

Today I noticed a blogpost on the site of Ryman, the UK high street stationer, entitled ‘The History of Stationery’ that gives an interesting account of both the history and future of products within this category and the history of the term itself.

The confusion aparently dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries when there were two types of stationery retailers – a travelling sales person selling stationery in towns and villages and another type of outlet that was truly stationary – selling the same types of products, but from a static location.

Now if anyone who spells ‘stationery’ incorrectly in future pitches actually manages to explain their justification for the error, I will be impressed!

December 6, 2008 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment


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