Let’s face it, there’s a pretty good chance your brand is broken. Maybe not out of business, but struggling. You’re stressed and you don’t know what to do. You may not even believe this to be true. I’m going to tell you a story and it’s going to help you. Walk with me. By the way, this is a true story.
I recently booked a trip through Vacations By Marriott. No problem booking it, and all went according to plan. But then I needed to cancel it. It was exactly 4:58 p.m., when I called the 877 number listed on the booking confirmation. A “nice” lady answered the phone and I told her I needed to cancel the trip. It only took a few minutes for me to realize there was going to be a really big problem.
“That’s not the credit card number used to book the trip,” she said. I was surprised. Annoyed, actually. I knew which credit card was used to book the trip and according to her, I couldn’t cancel the trip without telling her the complete number of the credit card used to book the trip. A credit card number that wasn’t mine, and I never used.
I told her to let me speak to a supervisor. True to stereotypes, the supervisor came online with a tone of authority, but an obvious inability to solve problems. If it didn’t fit the script, the water was too deep for her. I explained the situation and told her I needed to cancel the trip. Her script dictated that she remind me that I would lose all amounts paid. My problem wasn’t about the money (the trip was insured), it was about the fact that I wanted to figure out why a mysterious credit card was in my file and to otherwise provide the courtesy of giving notice of my cancelation. None of that mattered, she wanted to fight.
“You can’t cancel the trip unless you provide us with the credit card number used to book the trip.” She reminded me (for the 6th or 7th time).
“This can’t possibly be legal,” I responded, “I booked the trip and you won’t let me cancel because you guys made a mistake entering the credit card?” It was unbelievable. Some random credit card was going to be hit by Marriott for a trip I was trying to cancel, and they refused to cancel because I didn’t know a credit card number that I never even gave them.
You get the point. A simple problem, with a simple solution. I booked a trip I want to cancel. Cancel it. But they couldn’t cancel it because although I knew every single detail about the booking, I didn’t know a number that I never gave them. The brand is toast. When that happens, the entire system is broken. All I could hear the entire time she was repeating her script was, “does not compute. Does not compute.”
Want to know how to fix your brand? Make it human. Humans don’t run on a script. Just like when you listen to the 9th option on the voicemail decision tree and realize that there’s no option for your particular problem…and you’re not allowed to speak to a live person. It’s not human.
If you want to fix a broken brand, start with the human interface. What’s happening between the customer and the person currently acting as the interface to the brand (i.e., customer service representative, supervisor, manager, etc.). If your interfacing person is stuck on a script, your brand is already failing. If they can’t think for themselves based on the reality of the current problem, your brand is failing.
Want to fix your broken brand? Find the person responsible for interacting with humans (customers/clients) on behalf of your brand and train them to be the most flexible, thoughtful, adaptive person in the organization. That will fix your brand. Or at least part of your brand.
Oh, and that 877 number I called? Turns out it was forwarded to Marriott corporate. And, by the way, Vacations by Marriott is – according to Marriott – not the same organization as Marriott; it’s a third-party vendor. But when Marriott gives you the number for Vacations by Marriott, guess what number they give you. Yes, you guessed it, the number I called.
A broken brand on so many levels. And the best part of all, the “supervisor”…the woman in charge of making sure my problem was solved…she hung up on me. Angry that I only wanted to clear up the credit card issue and give a courtesy cancelation notice. Not a fight not to pay. Not disputing any charges. Think about it. That’s a broken brand.