When dealing with service failures (screw-ups) and angry customers you really need to think about the long term consequences of how you respond. Social Networking is all about getting people to talk about you. The powerful aspect of this is that what is said lives on the Internet virtually forever. Positive chatter is like a credibility savings account that goes on paying dividends. Negative rants are sticky, reoccurring public relation nightmares that will never go away.
Auto Repair Shop Social Networking Gone Wrong
When Sears Auto in Savannah, Georgia put a new set of tires on comedian Ron White's van, and forgot to replace the lug nuts on one of the wheels, they had no idea of the long term damage it would inflict on their reputation. And how they responded to the incident and Ron “spinning into a dimension of pissed off [he had] never been in [his] life” may have cost them more than they ever imagined! Rumor has it that when he threatened to sue them, after what he thought was an inadequate compensation offer, Sears agreed to Ron using the incident in his comedy act if he dropped the law suit. I bet they regret that decision.
Obviously the Sears representative who made the decision to brush this incident off had no idea of the power of social networking, celebrity status, television syndication, CD sales, or YouTube videos. I suppose they thought this guy would take his anger and dirty little story, tell a few people, and quickly disappear. A inexpensive way to avoid having their name dragged through the courts. Boy were they wrong! Somebody didn't do their homework before that negotiation.
Ron White is a very well known guy in stand-up comedy and his “Tire Guy at Sears” routine is
very extremely popular. Sold out live shows, TV specials, syndicated broadcasts on the major networks and satellite TV to list some of the media exposure he gets. I'm sure hundreds of thousands of people have heard about his bad experience at Sears. And will continue to for a long time yet. At last count over 135,000 people have watched this copy of his “Tire Guy at Sears” skit on YouTube alone!
Where did Sears go wrong? The root of the problem is the lack of a corporate policy or, better, a mission statement that guides employees in situations like this. At the scene it goes back to moments shortly after the service failure happened. There was no question Sears was responsible. They should have accepted it and gone into damage control mode. The manager should have done everything possible to make amends to Mr. White. Accepted full responsibility, offered to handle the situation: all repairs to his vehicle, compensation for any expenses for inconvenience – vehicle rental, travel disruption, accommodation, food, etcetera. In the long run they could have rescued this service failure and may have even got some positive spin from Ron if they truly impressed him. Instead they have a PR black cloud that will haunt them forever.
Have you though out a rescue plan for the inevitable service failure? Or are you going to take your chances in the social networking court of public opinion.