An Ironic and True Business Tale

September 21, 2011by hiebing2021

Et Tu, WSJ?
An Ironic and True Business Tale

For years I enjoyed a prominent business newspaper named after a famous street in New York’s financial district. Once I got an iPad, though, I went digital and canceled the paper.

Recently, I received a terrific offer to return to the publication. I thought it’d be great to have the iPad version.

Without all the grim details, it took six phone calls to confirm that the offer I received for the paper would not transfer to the iPad. I faced silos (“not my department”), commands (“You need to…”} and disempowerment (“I’m so sorry, there is nothing I can do.”) No one has yet to follow up with me in the two business weeks since, even though I asked nicely.

What’s the message you’re sending?

At Hiebing, our sole focus is inspiring brand devotion. Judged against this criteria, my interaction with this leading brand of business knowledge was a major and ironic failure.

Everyone lost here. The brand lost a sale. And the customer is not only dissatisfied, he’s telling the whole world about it. Brand devotion built over years was wiped away in an hour of fruitless talk.

Sadly, my experience is an increasingly common one. I hear tales of disappointment daily. That’s why it’s vital for brands to view themselves holistically—and ensure every touchpoint stays true to the brand.

  1. Mind the fundamentals of customer service. Give employees the power to say “yes” to keep a customer happy—or teach them to find someone who can. If you compensate by sales, make sure a successful referral to the “right department” counts.
  2. Test your brand’s touchpoints to spot and remove barriers. Hire outside consultants, use employees or friends, whatever. Just regularly check to make sure your employees and technology work together to satisfy the customer.
  3. Collect info and follow up. No one—not a single soul—asked if I would like someone to follow up with me. I had to ask and I have yet to get an answer.
  4. Use your own experiences as a consumer of other brands to make your brand better. Capture your feelings—fantastic, blah and terrible. Write your insights down, then look for nuggets to apply to make your brand’s experience better.
  5. Digital expands the landscape exponentially. Every interaction matters more than ever, since customers can veer to the competition in a heartbeat or opt to do nothing. Lead by example to foster a culture that finds answers instead of roadblocks and excuses.


One of my favorite stores—Abt Electronics in Glenview, Illinois—has a motto that goes something like “No reasonable request will ever be refused.” Unlike many big box stores, Abt has built a devoted core in Chicagoland and brings the same friendly, customer-focused experience online. Everyone wins at Abt. With the right focus, training and messaging, your brand can do the same.

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