Poor Customer Service Can Turn into a PR Nightmare

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There is an old saying that people only remember you for the bad things. The same saying relates to PR and business. Customers often only remember a company for the bad things they have done and not the good things. This is why it’s important for companies to guard their public image. Here are a few examples of companies who have hit the headlines all for the wrong reasons:

  • Forever 21. The clothing retailer received a lot of bad press after it was announced that it was going to cut the healthcare benefits for part-time workers. The company blamed the decision on Obamacare, but either way it didn’t come out looking good. Several customers took to social media to voice their complaints and the story received national attention.
  • Wild Wing Cafe in Charleston, S.C. Blogs lit up after it was revealed that a manager at  Wild Wing Cafe in Charleston, S.C. had asked a party of 25 African-Americans to leave because a white patron did not feel comfortable. The offended party took to Facebook to voice his displeasure saying he would never eat at Wild Wing Cafe again. Eventually the corporate office finally talked to the offended customer and offered him a free meal, which he refused. But by then the damage was already done, a TV report on the event already has more than 9,000 views on YouTube and the angry’s customer’s Facebook post was shared 900 times.
  • Rue 21 in Eugene, Ore. Shelby Buster, a 14-year-old girl, was shopping at Rue  21 in Eugene, Ore. when she was told by the manager that she was too big to be shopping in the store and was asked to leave. Again, the story was picked up by local TV and eventually went viral causing a headache for the store’s corporate office. And again the offended party took to Facebook to voice their complaints.

These three head-scratching incidents are examples of how poor customer service training can blow up into major PR disasters. In all three cases I had barely heard of these companies, but now only know of them companies because of their bad publicity. This kind of bad publicity can turn out to be costly for major brands.
So what is the moral of this story? If they are not doing it already companies should emphasize to employees and managers that they should always be careful when dealing with customers. In the 21st century one bad customer service experience can often turn into an angry social media post and thousands of dollars of bad publicity.

Manny Otiko, founder of Otiko Communications, has worked in the public relations and journalism field for about 15 years as a journalist and a media relations specialist. His experience includes stints as a reporter at a daily newspaper, serving as a media relations specialist for a state agency and working for several Southern California public relations agencies.

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  • http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel Mickie E Kennedy

    Some of these stories made me cringe …

    PR / Customer Service flubs are going to happen, regardless of your industry. In my experience, honesty and “making it right” are always the best policies — and doing so BEFORE the potential social media storm. Often a customer can be recovered even after a serious problem if an apology, acknowledgment and reparation is made quickly and swiftly.

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