As you know, my line of work calls for me to help a lot of brand under attack or facing crises online. As you also know, I have a clear mission through this blog to help brands protect and prepare themselves from the many risks that threaten their company’s reputation. For that reason, it is a rare day when you will find me calling out a brand by name, for a negative situation that has happened to me, personally. However, this past weekend I went through an ordeal that has completely shocked and appalled me, and I’m going to do something that I very seldom do here on this blog: tell you about the horrible experience I had AND call out the brand.
Rona’s HUGE Customer Care Fail
It’s gone from winter to summer, literally over night, here in Montreal. We seem to have skipped spring and gone straight to shorts and tank-top weather. So, as many other Montrealers, this past Sunday I found myself working in my backyard and garden, when I decided to pay a visit to one of my favorite home repair / hardware stores for some nice new outdoor purchases. The store is called Rona. If you aren’t familiar with the Rona franchise, Rona is a very huge home-hardware store here in Canada.
So, there I was, walking with my husband through the first isle when we saw a little patio table that we liked. I pulled it from the shelf, crouched down to examine it, when suddenly I was hit by what felt like a ton of bricks, straight on my head. It appears that when I took the table from the shelf, it sent a ripple effect and an 8 foot-long metal pole, which was insecurely placed far above me, came crashing down… right on top of my head.
It took me a few minutes to pick myself up, but once up and quite angry and in pain, I immediately grabbed the metal pole and called upon the store manager. When he came to see me, I asked him to hold the metal pole so that he could feel its weight. I then proceeded to tell him how it came crashing down on my head from who knows how high up the 20 foot wall.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but when a customer approaches you with pain in her eyes, rubbing her head and explains to you how an object that could have easily killed a child came crashing down on her head, one would expect the instinctive reaction to be something along the lines of “oh my gosh! Are you alright? I’m so sorry that this has happened…” before they continue to attempt to make it up to you and fill out an injury report. One would think that this would be a natural reaction. However, it was no where near the reaction I received. Instead of an apology, instead of an inquiry to my well-being, my complaint was met with a long stream of sentences on how these items are usually more secure and shouldn’t fall… as if I didn’t already know that this item should not have fallen on my head!
Upset and in pain, I left the store.
After having time to reflect and feel the full force of my minor concussion, I decided to write an email to Rona’s head office, as well as publicly to their Facebook fan page. Unfortunately, their response pattern seems to run consistent across the board, and their Facebook fan page seems to run unmonitored by robots, because, 48 hours later (at the time of this writing) I have yet to receive any email or phone call from Rona’s head office. I did however receive a very generic response to my Facebook comment – 48 hours after I published it to their wall. Total and utter FAIL, Rona!
Lessons and take-aways for smarter brands than Rona seems to be
This is a serious issue that should not have happened. However, accidents are sometimes out of our control and do happen. (I’m just incredibly thankful that it was not a child standing in my place at the time that the pole came crashing down.) But an accident such as this is highly foreseeable, especially for a mega home hardware store, and the reaction – or rather the non-reaction – that I received is unjustifiable. From the store manager to the head office to their Facebook fan page, under no circumstances should an injured customer have been disregarded and gone unanswered. It is unacceptable and a total and utter fail on Rona’s part.
The minimum response that I should have experienced
As a foreseeable risk, procedures (and might I add compassion) should have been instinctively met in-store. (Don’t forget that had I been met with compassion and sincerity in the store, my following two courses of action would not have happened and this would be a much different blog post, if I would have written one at all.)
Emails should be read and taken seriously by the head office and I should have received some sort of reply, by the next morning at the latest.
Facebook and all other social channels should be monitored regularly and consistently and questions and comments should be answered and escalated to higher personnel when necessary. In no circumstances such as this should a mechanical and generic reply be made. It’s literally adding insult to injury.
What if this happened in your place of business?
If an accident such as this were to happen in your store or office, would your management and front-line employees know how to correctly respond and react? If you aren’t sure, test them. Because had this happened to someone else, Rona could have been facing very undesirable online attacks and worse, legal pursuits. Your customers and clients’ well-being and safety is of the utmost importance. Have you educated and empowered every level of your team to a) realize this, and b) know the correct protocol and procedures to dealing with this type of potential crisis situation?
If you haven’t, it’s time to get on it!
Update May 16 2013:
After many communications with different members of the Rona team, I have even more lessons and take-aways of what NOT to do in these situations. Rona continued to fail with their communications and customer care – and the fails came from all the way up the executive ladder. If you’d like to read the update on this situation I experienced – and learn some valuable lessons for your own brand and team (not that you need them, as a reader of this blog, I know you wouldn’t make these futile mistakes!), click here.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.