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Once again, another big company has egg on its face because of one unhappy customer with a YouTube account.

The sad thing about this incident is that UPS could have averted the negative publicity simply by doing what it ended up doing to start with – investigate the man’s claims, fire the dishonest UPS worker, and replace the iPad Mini that was stolen. Simple, right? Then why do so many companies not do it?

My guess is that many of the people in customer service departments of large companies still have not been trained on the repercussions of no action. They are operating like it’s 1985.

At one time not too long ago, if this kind of incident had occurred, a person had no recourse. They couldn’t call the local newspaper and say “UPS employs dishonest workers.” The newspaper wouldn’t run the story unless there was some type of official police investigation where someone was arrested. The home owner would have to file a police report and an investigation would have to take place. That could take weeks or months. Even then, if justice was served, the chances of that kind of event happening to someone else was pretty high because even if the UPS employee was fired for his crime once convicted, the company never realized any negative repercussions because newspapers generally don’t report petty crimes. And the time between the incident and the close of the investigation all but ensured a dishonest employee had access to more merchandise to steal.

Today, instant negative publicity due to one customer with a video, a smartphone camera, or even access to Twitter and SMS, can do far more damage to a company’s reputation.

Let this serve as a lesson to large and small businesses alike, every customer is your most important customer. One little fail can lead to huge PR blemishes that could cost your business for years to come. Social media cannot be ignored, and neither can your customers.

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