You can irreparably damage your brand with a single email.
I was reminded of this FACT the other day when I received a phone call from my friend Spencer. Spencer is a good dude. He works hard. Takes care of his family. Goes out of his way to help others.
But one of Spencer’s most admirable qualities is that he is always seeking ways to improve.
In fact, he has probably spent TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars on books, courses, seminars, professional organizations, etc., all focused on making him a better person and marketer.
When he wanted to become a better copywriter, he spent money on Ramit Sethi’s, Call to Action (which he said was EPIC). When he wanted to monetize his blog, he spent money on Derek Halpern’s, Blog That Converts, (which he said was some of the best content on the subject). When he wanted to know more about the psychology of pricing for his business, he took Nick Kolenda’s, Pricing Psychology.
So it came as no surprise when he told me he had purchased a seminar from one of his MARKETING IDOLS (the name of this person doesn’t matter for purposes of this story). He told me that he had previously bought stuff from this guy; and it was GOLD. So he had really high hopes for the seminar.
He also really respected this guy. Even looked up to him as a professional. I mean he really went OUT OF HIS WAY to evangelize this guy's brand; telling everyone that would listen how great he was.
It needs to be said that one of Spencer’s greatest qualities, is also his Achilles Heel; Spencer TRUSTS that people generally want to do the right thing. This is probably because that this is his way of operating; treating others the way he would want to be treated.
Anyway, Spencer bought this seminar, which came with several bonuses; one of them was an ebook.
As Spencer went through the seminar, he realized that he never received the bonus. So, like any normal person would, he politely emailed the guy:
After waiting nearly a week without a response. He followed up with another polite email:
Again, no response. Nothing. Nada. He waited another week and...
Now it NEEDS to be said, all that Spencer wanted was what he PAID for. More importantly, he wanted what was PROMISED to him. He spent his HARD EARNED MONEY on this seminar. Money that could have gone elsewhere. He TRUSTED this guy to deliver.
So he did what any reasonable person would do and reached out to the distributor of the product to request a refund because his purchase was incomplete AND he was unable to reach the seller after multiple attempts.
I can tell you that Spencer felt bad about asking for a refund from someone he admired so much. But I can also tell you that Spencer didn’t like being taken advantage of.
It is important to note - Spencer didn’t actually want a refund, he wanted a complete product. The one that he was PROMISED. That is why he made the purchase in the first place.
Of course, the distributor initiated the refund, and wouldn’t you know it - THIS was the action that elicited this response from Spencer’s idol:
Now, this response could have taken place like a week or two prior and avoided all of this. In fact, it is offensive that this guy didn’t already KNOW why the refund was requested from Spencer’s previous emails. I mean Spencer did reach out TWICE in the last two weeks.
Regardless, Spencer really respected this guy, so he sent him an email explaining what happened and attached screenshots of the emails he sent:
Did the dude apologize?
As you can see, Spencer even told the guy, [I am] a “huge brand advocate.” He also told him that all he wanted was what he paid for.
This was a golden opportunity for this guy to turn this around. This guy could have made Spencer a BRAND ADVOCATE for LIFE. All he had to do was apologize and make things right.
In fact, in their recent book, The Power of Moments (2017), Chip and Dan Heath call this turning valleys into peaks. It is essentially taking a negative experience and converting it to a positive experience that is stronger than the initial bad experience.
Unfortunately, this guy didn’t care. Instead, he insulted Spencer:
In another context, the words “No worries, dude… No hard feelings…” would come off sincere.
But in this case...
Dripping. With. Sarcasm.
“So the reason for the refund was because you didn’t have access to... $7 Amazon book.”
I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say this…
What a DICK.
What GOOD came from injecting the low-value price of the ebook into the conversation other than to minimize its importance? I mean, if it is ONLY worth $7, and isn’t worth a shit, why even include it? Are you in the business of selling shit?
Or are you a simply a condescending asshole?
So Spencer wrote back that he was offended:
As a brand consultant and consumer psychologist, I find it ironic that the person trying to salvage the relationship is the consumer. Spencer explains WHY he asked for the refund in the first place AND even tells the guy he “remains an advocate” of his work!
Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
If nothing else, this shows Spencer’s true character. In the face of disappointment from someone he truly admired, he STILL tells the guy that he respects his work.
Of course, there was no response beyond this email.
The reality is, this guy totally missed the mark. From a business perspective, he lost revenue. From a brand equity perspective, he just lost…
Branding your business, product, or service extends far beyond the visual design. In fact, a brand is inextricably linked to the customer experience it provides.
This ONE email came in like a wrecking ball and destroyed the relationship that a high-value customer had with this business. Making matters worse, this ONE email damaged this guy's brand. When Spencer now talks about this Brand, what do you think he will say?
It won’t be good.
It will be another swing of a wrecking ball...