Today, branding matters, no matter how good a product is, if the PR behind it annoys customers, and if the customer service fails in actually providing a service, then a brand will eventually suffer. There are tried and tested methods of marketing that never always worked, but the people in the office managed to persuade their clients it did , and what I’ve discovered is that poor PR (or a lack of responses from emails or social media messages), coupled with inadequate customer service in this competitive industry can lead to a loss of customers, and reputation who in turn will not recommend brands or companies to their friends.
PR Pet Peeves
PR relies on promoting a positive brand image to the customer, and that means that they must understand their needs and what makes them read an email or to want to buy their brand. The problem is some newer people in the industry believe if they like a slogan and use language they react to, then others will, or they dress up offers with so much small print it was really a fib. These are some of the things that fill up my inbox that I delete without hesitation.
- Click and bait headers in emails ~ Look Fantastic, Beauty Pie, Love Me Beauty, and Latest in Beauty are among the culprits with tag lines that indicate a special offer, only to find there is no offer, but a reminder of what you can buy as standard. Extremely annoying, and so I now no longer read them.
- Too many emails ~ An email should be unique and either offer information on a launch, or contain a discount code or offer. I’ve had the same email from Beauty Pie in different versions, and so many people have complained about Look Fantastic emailing them each day with the same offer that they try to use and that doesn’t work.
- False offers ~ How can you tell if an offer is a good one or not? Often companies send out discount codes or have them posted online, but sometimes they don’t work or there are so many exclusions it’s not really a true discount. Recently I had an email trying to entice me back to Latest in Beauty with 30% off, but there was nothing I liked. Two weeks later they emailed me another offer of 15% off! Go figure that one out! Still, they got me to look, but rather than leave with a positive view of the company, like many I feel cheated, tricked, and misled.
- Using jargon or images that are misleading, false, or dangerous~ The advertising standards agency have been hot on this, and companies have been forced to either take down adverts, or put a disclaimer on one where images represent a possible look. This has happened with mascara where extensions were used (therefore wasn’t a true representation of the product), and hair dye, which had been photo shopped. The same goes for terms such as anti-wrinkle, or lip plumping effect. These are all advertising bluffs to entice the buyer. In addition some don’t state the true dangers of using products for example to use a high SPF if using any products with an AHA.
- Using reviews from people who have been given the item for free ~ This can be a grey area as some people are good at reviewing items, and others have nothing to compare it to and will give glowing reviews. It’s not something you can rely on as a company vets all reviews and chooses which ones to publish, therefore, they use it as PR for their own gains rather than an accurate reflection of a product.
- When questions on social media are ignored or are rudely answered ~ These days, companies have to be responsive on social media even if it’s just a like. People do hate scripted responses though, but they are better than being ignored. Even if a query is dealt with via a personal message there is no guarantee that the person won’t share the interaction on social media. Birchbox UK failed on this point when multitudes of customers complained about the free hand balm with any purchase that never surfaced. Some people got one after a few emails, others got a gift voucher, and many others got nothing and never ordered from them again.
- Dubious reviews on social media ~ I do read reviews and some people do have a genuine reason to complain, and others are just picking at small errors that were corrected. I was horrified to see one CEO of a company (Beauty Pie) write a 5 star review for his own company to bump up the rating average. That’s wrong on so many levels, which has now been removed after I queried it. Another company (Love Me Beauty) offered customers free credits to write reviews on trustpilot, so can they be trusted?
- When companies don’t allow visitor posts ~ Due to spam, I can understand the need to moderate posts, but not to allow any at all makes me think what are they hiding?
- When they don’t reply or acknowledge your query ~ There is no excuse if you use the email address or contact form they provide. Elemis are the worst, followed by Jurlique, and sadly Evolve Beauty where you don’t even get an automated email saying they will respond to you as soon as possible. The hugest fail.
Customer Service Fails
With social media, which can make or break a product or brand, excellent customer service is more important than PR. If a company has a bad reputation, then that will spread, and people will share their experiences on review websites (I don’t trust trustpilot as they do allow companies to flag and delete reviews). That’s the worst PR you can get, so the best way it to offer exceptional customer service to avoid bad PR.
The only time you generally need to contact customer services is when there is problem with your order; a faulty item, a missing item, or you need an exchange or refund. Most companies outsource customer services, and operators are given standard answers to most queries, however, copy and pasting a message for the sake of making a response is not good customer service. Companies take note!
- When it takes more than a few days to get a response ~ In general I give it a week, and any longer is just poor. If they say they have had a lot of queries, you may wonder why so many people have had to resort to customer service to get things resolved.
- When they lie to you ~ I had a recent incident where a company lied to me and when I queried whether they had sold me a free gift by accident, I was told it wasn’t a mistake and if I didn’t like it send it back. Somehow they never managed to explain if it was a set that was for retail sale why it had ‘here’s your gift’ on the outer packaging (minus marks for Jurlique and FeelUnique who both then refused to reply to any further communications). It has totally put me off both companies. Look Fantastic nearly gave me a breakdown as they had charged me for something (without permission) and sent me an item I had not ordered. Trying to return it and get a refund took 6 weeks, and I was told I had ordered it (I hadn’t and my card details had been deleted), only to have someone later admit there was an error in the system. Customer services should resolve matters and not make them worse.
- When they send rude replies ~ I’m not sure which is worse, no reply or a rude one? As many customer service advisors are rated, I gave a poor rating to one who gave me a cut and pasted response, who then sent me an angry email telling me that there were no samples and that she’d already said some would be posted out. That was 2 weeks ago Elemis! Birchbox swings from adequate to poor, and the worst was when I was accused of lying and when she asked me to prove my friend had got a voucher to make up for a free gift that had run out.
- When the live chat doesn’t work ~ I prefer to use live chat as it means I don’t have to be on hold and can get things resolved. Now, I’ve used it on several sites, and Pink Parcel was great as they sorted things out in minutes. Now onto Elemis where I tried to use my birthday code that didn’t work, where the operator said she couldn’t do anything and I should phone customer services! If you are going to offer customer services via live chat then make sure they have the power to resolve issues.
- When they don’t sort out the problem ~ It doesn’t happen often, but usually things go quiet and you are left wondering what to do. If you ordered online you do have rights, and the right to return items within 14 working days without having to give a reason (in the UK). Most people share their experience on social media or a review site and that company will have lost a customer.
Do comment if there are other customer service fails that put you off a company or brand, and if excessive emails deter you from reading them. However, in order to get offers you have to sign up for emails and newsletters, but no one needs a daily email surely? It takes more than a good product to keep customers loyal and happy, brand image and customer service matter.