Business ignorance or a flat out lie & damaging the brand

So today I grabbed some lunch at Wendy’s. Typically this is a good experience and the local Wendy’s is really good. Today’s experience however left me frustrated. I think Wendy’s is a little pricey and when I have a bad experience I really find that I paid too much. Since there is very little quality food joints local to my office I frequent this Wendy’s location when I need to grab something.

So I got a W burger partially because they have been giving out coupons for months to try to the new burger. I like it so I strayed from my regular spicy chicken sandwich, anyhow the burger was good. The combo meal was the problem. The fries sucked and were undercooked. I thought oh well everyone has bad days and this was as I snacked on a few fries driving back to the office.

Then I get to my office and take a drink of my sprite and nearly gagged. The sprite was horrible and not mixed right. Ok so this is too much, 2/3 of my meal were bad. So I called them up and told them, hey you might want to fix your sprite, it seems like it isn’t mixing write and taste horrible. Also the fries were undercooked so you might want to fix these problems for future patrons before lunch get’s busy. Honestly I did want to help others get a better experience, but I was also hopping to get a refund or something because I threw the sprite away and gagged down the fries.

Here is the kicker. The guy who answered the phone thanked me, but didn’t offer any refund or really listen to me. I would have loved a refund, but even just an ok, thanks we will check on it would have been fine. Sadly though, he made excuses for the fries and said they just changed the oil and so they may taste different because of that. Here is the deal, I know the business because I used to be a Burger King employee for several years through high school. Although he thought I was crazy about the fries, they WERE undercooked. I know the fry machine has a timer and if I drop the fries and set the timer they come out perfect every time. I’m a process guy, I get it. The problem is processes fail when people are involved or skip steps. When working at BK I know that there were times that we broke rules to speed things up, sometimes even pulled the fries up early.

So I understand sometimes there are accidents and people screw things up. What I can’t tolerate however is business ignorance or someone flat out lying to me, especially when I called to help them out. This guy wouldn’t budge that I might know what I am talking about and the fries WERE undercooked. So instead of looking into it… he told me what he thought (basically that the fries were NOT undercooked and I was wrong).

So the real problem for me is this:

  1. I got a bad meal that I already think is over priced for what I get and now that money is gone and literally half was thrown in the trash
  2. I went out of my way to help an establishment I frequent in hopes that I never have this issue again
  3. I understand the industry so I know when there is a problem
  4. I got poor customer service that told me thanks but no thanks

The real problem for Wendy’s is this:

  1. I am not only a customer, I am a frequent customer
  2. I felt I got ripped off on my recent purchase
  3. When I tried to make things better, I got treated poorly
  4. I will probably slow down or stop my purchases at this Wendy’s
  5. I will tell hundreds to thousands of people about this experience through this blog article over an $8 meal
  6. Wendy’s brand tarnishes a little bit every time a customer walks away unhappy
  7. The Wendy’s brand tarnishes even more as customers get more and more control of the media (blogs, facebook, twitter, foursquare, yelp, urbanspoon and the like) and can spread the word to the masses – so it is no longer one upset person it could be 50 or hundreds of people that avoid your store

So is customer service part of brand building and brand maintenance? You bet it is. Just as quickly as you build that brand reputation it can be wiped away with some stupid lie or bad customer experience. Who knows, this guy might just be ignorant and didn’t know how to handle a situation like this. Honestly most companies fail to do training in this area or have a written manual on the processes to handling a customer complaint.

The lesson here is not- Hey don’t go to the Wendy’s near Brandwise. The real lesson should be wow, how can we start planning for a bad customer experience and what can we do better when we have one? I too am asking myself this very question, because this stuff can devastate a brand if you are not careful. In Wendy’s case if they would have just listened to me and/or offered me a refund I would not have wrote this article. So what are you going to need to do in your case? The first thing I’d recommend is just listen to the customer. Let them feel heard. Then if you feel the need offer a refund or something special on the next purchase. This will keep people from writing negative blog articles or reviews.

What are your thoughts on poor customer service? How do you handle issues in your business with dissatisfied customers? Do you have process to try to avid this sort of thing? What do you do if your company ends up in a blog article or you get a bad review on yelp, or other online rating sites? Leave your thoughts below as a comment. I’d love to hear how your dealing with these issues in your own business.