Teresa Horscroft's blog

Teresa Horscroft is a PR consultant who helps companies in the information technology and marketing sectors to raise awareness of their products and services and increase sales.

24 September 2009

Stand and Deliver: is your brand delivering on its promise?

A recent unsatisfactory experience with Tefal’s customer service department reminded me that no matter how much money companies spend on building great products, establishing the brand and communicating the brand’s strength’s again and again, it takes just one bad customer experience to break that hard-earned customer loyalty.

Yes I was disappointed that my ‘lifetime guarantee’ product was faulty, though rather relieved that the rivet on the pan handle hadn’t blown up in my face. But had Tefal apologised and offered to replace the faulty product then I may have forgotten about the experience. I might have even felt more confident in the Tefal brand for honouring its lifetime guarantee. Instead I was rather rudely accused of misusing the pan! Is there a special way to boil water apart from make sure that water is present? When I finally convinced them to listen to sense, they permitted me send the saucepan back, at my cost I may add, so that they could judge the reason of its demise.

When I did receive a replacement for the faulty product, there was no communication at all from Tefal - no 'we're sorry’ letter; no compliments slip; no reassurance that my other saucepans wouldn’t blow up while being used; and no refund for the cost I had incurred in sending the heavy package away.

The whole experience has not only cheapened my opinion of the Tefal brand, but I no longer trust it. Would I have felt the same if Tefal hadn’t promised me that their products were of such high quality that they would last a lifetime? Would an apology and some reassurance have helped? Yes and yes. People tend not to remember the problem as much as how it is dealt with.

In the end, when a brand fails to deliver on its promise it’s in more trouble than a brand that just doesn’t deliver (years of research by Millward Brown backs this up). Communications professionals would do well to step outside of the comms department for a few hours and make sure their brands stand up to the scrutiny of the promise.