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Gone in the blink of an eye

John Lewis – the nation’s favourite retailer – is admired and even loved by many. Over the years it has done so much right and got few things wrong. I’ve always held the company in high regard and in marketing workshops I run I frequently reference the company in terms of best marketing practice.

So, it was deeply disappointing when earlier this week an order was cancelled on the day it was due to be delivered, a day I had taken off work to receive the delivery. I won’t go into all the details about the communication I’ve had with John Lewis since but suffice to relate that they, initially, did not apologise for the cancellation, will not tell me why it was cancelled and blamed the delay in processing the order on the large number of orders over the Black Friday weekend (the order was placed the day before Black Friday). It took two days for John Lewis to respond to a complaint I made by email but a few hours to respond when I went public on Twitter!

Having a good reputation is every brand’s dream. It usually takes many years to build a good reputation but just a nanosecond to destroy it. Examples of this litter history: Ratners, Volkswagen , BP, Ryanair, Abercrombie & Fitch to name but a few. Through good crisis management companies can recover – VW’s sales are bigger now than they were before the emissions crisis, but if handled properly a problem needn’t become a crisis and the consequent loss of reputation can be averted.

Take my issue with John Lewis. I am definitely not going to make another online purchase at John Lewis because I have absolutely no confidence in their systems. Despite asking them the question they were not able to reassure me that another order would not be affected in the same way. In addition, the various John Lewis employees I have been in communication with have seen the problem from the company’s view point not the customer’s. Sorry, “too many orders” is not my problem and should never be given as a reason for an order not being processed properly.

Everybody understands a company can not be perfect all the time, and nobody expects it. Had the problem been handled properly, my anger and frustration would have been diffused and I would not have been forced to write this blog. Oh for a little bit of good customer service training and joined up marketing!

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