“Brand loyalty is not about winning. It is about giving consumers the opportunity to feel open and converse with you about any issue.”

Remember a year ago when we discussed Energizer’s giveaway fail? Seems like more and more, companies are handing over important information to the public without realizing it. Retail giant, Gymboree sent out an email this evening that looked a little like this:

It looked fishy from the start. Someone said it looked like they were testing a new order system. In either case watch what happens when we scroll down to the bottom of the email....

A link appears at the very bottom. It's clickable. When it comes up personal information and an order is displayed. What we don't know is if there really is an Anne Berger who ordered these items or if it is a test. A Pipl.com and Google.com search shows 2 Anne Bergers in the area. The plot thickens...

 

I saved the link, but in case Anne was real, I didn’t want her exact order, address, gift recipient and CREDIT CARD information displayed on my website. If Anne isn’t real, this isn’t quite as serious. As the situation has blown up over the past 2 hours, one thing is clear: Gymboree has a lot of angry customers.


“The truth of social media is: If you sell to those using social media, the moment a sale or relationship goes south they have an opportunity to broadcast and tarnish your relationship online. It’s their right. What any company can do, is be proactive and transparent online. By proving you are willing apologize openly, the moment something occurs and having a plan in place to assist with angry commenters? You’ll have a way to successfully navigate a very difficult situation. Gymboree, did none of that until poked and prodded by angry customers.”


Was this situation handled well?  After an hour, nothing had been posted on any social platform. People were left to think that Anne’s information was just given away. What’s worse is that Gymboree hasn’t even responded to comments. In fact? When asked politely why an email came to my inbox, my comment was deleted from Gymboree’s Facebook page. The number one rule is: NEVER DELETE, ALWAYS APOLOGIZE. Since they are not allowing anyone to post about the incident on their wall, posters just started posting under other posts. I counted over 15 negative posts before the incident had even occurred criticizing Gymboree’s clothing quality, pricing and more. It should be stated my daughter’s wardrobe consists of Gymboree. I’m a fan when I can grab it on sale.

Is this how a huge retailer really wants their clients to perceive them?

 

At just after 9pm, 249 comments were posted under Gymboree’s message just minutes earlier about the ‘snafu.’ They accepted responsibility, apologized and tried to contain the situation. Unfortunately. many posts spilled out just like this one:


 

Sadly, about 10% of the commenters resorted to asking for freebies. That in itself, is tragic.  This is my plea to companies: Always, Always have a plan in place to protect your brand.

 

Can this be saved? Absolutely. What needs to happen can be fixed in 3, easy, lessons.

  • Always Protect and Serve. Customer information is priceless. It should be protected behind a diamond-encrusted titanium wall. Don’t abuse the trust of your consumers. Always have a plan in place if information is compromised or an error occurs. Stick to the plan and never compromise.

  • Quick fixes are never easy. Focus on responding individually as much as you can. Customers don’t like being thrown in small spaces to talk to other angry customers. That will only escalate the situation and create other complaints. Facebook and Twitter pages are a breeding ground for the dissatisfied. If you want your customers to spend their dollars with you and treat you better than the competition, treat your customers as individuals. After trust is truly broken, it’s difficult to repair. Offer a well-written apology, followed up with a personal statement from leadership and a phone number or email you can interact with them on. Reaching out personally will create better dialog and a future advocate for your company. Never, ever, ignore the issue or simply post something on facebook and leave it.

  • Bad press can keep going, (and going, and going.) People are STILL talking about the Energizer giveaway. Brands depend on loyalty. When a customer feels deceived they will internalize the broken relationship, often vocalize about their dissatisfaction and spend their dollars with the competition. True authenticity online and the willingness to be humble will retain customers and save your brand. I have a saying, “Brand loyalty is not about winning. It is about giving consumers the opportunity to feel open and converse with you about any issue.” If you have that, you have a brand that people will trust and engage with. It’s simple and true. Don’t focus on ‘winning’ their trust back, focus on LISTENING to their issues and crafting a thoughtful and humble response.