Creating Brand Advocates
BY JIMMY EGELAND – CREATIVE DIRECTOR
One of the many perks of working at Elicit is that our co-owners give us awesome holiday gifts each year. Back in 2015, we all received a pair of V-MODA Crossfade Wireless headphones. If you’ve never heard of the brand, you’re missing out—the sound quality is amazing, the Bluetooth capability is great, and the noise cancelation is really quite handy when you share an office with noisy 4-year-old twins (I work from home).
The only complaint I had was with the travel case. Like I mentioned, I work from home so I rarely travel for business. In fact, I have only traveled for work twice since I got the headphones and both times it was for Mind Meld. As I was packing for Mind Meld 9—only the second time I had actually used the case—the zipper popped off the track. Despite my best efforts and many, many expletives, I couldn’t get it back on. The case was effectively broken.
Since the headphones really don’t fold up, the case is more of a molded exoskeleton that secures the headphones in their normal position. Thanks to the untimely zipper malfunction, instead of being able to utilize the case’s carabiner clip to hook it on the outside of my bag, I had to rig the case closed with the carabiner and cram it inside my laptop bag. Slightly disgruntled, I headed off on my trip with a very cumbersome carryon.
When I returned home, I decided to see if I could get the case replaced. I was slightly apprehensive since the headphones were a gift and I had no proof of purchase, but I hoped that V-MODA would honor my request for a replacement case, nonetheless.
Much to my surprise and delight, that’s exactly what happened. Here’s my exact email correspondence with V-MODA, time stamped accordingly. Watch closely and you’ll see my brand advocacy being born:
JIMMY, OCT 27, 11:53 AM:
Hi. I love my wireless crossfades that I received as a corporate holiday present last year. However, I’ve only used the case it came in to travel twice, and the second time I used it the zipper broke as I was zipping it up. It no longer can seal my headphones inside. Is there any way to get the case replaced?
V-MODA, OCT 27, 12:15 PM
What color is the case? Where are you located?
Rock On, Richard
JIMMY, OCT 27, 12:28 PM
[My home address]
V-MODA, OCT 27, 12:33 PM
Replacement case going out today here is the tracking # [USPS tracking number]
Rock On, Richard
JIMMY, OCT 27, 12:34 PM
Blown away. You rule. Brand advocate for life.
V-MODA, OCT 27, 1:02 PM
No worries and I’m glad I can help you out : )
Rock On, Richard
Impressive, right? From the time I emailed my complaint/request to the time my issue was completely resolved took forty minutes of real time and probably less than two minutes of actual correspondence time, i.e. me typing my responses. Literally five minutes after I emailed them my home address, they had my shipment’s tracking number ready. And four days later I had the new case in my hands.
So what can we all learn from this example? I’ve broken down my experience and pulled out these three key elements that really resonated with me, and will most likely resonate with your customers, too.
EMPATHY IS THE BEST POLICY
The part about this exchange that I love is that I was never questioned, doubted, or challenged. Could I be some scammer trying to get a free case? Possibly. Was I just a frustrated customer who wanted a broken case replaced? Yes. Richard believed me from the jump and was solely motivated to ease my pain. I felt like he read my email and said “Dang, that sucks. I’m going to try to help this guy out.” While he couldn’t go back in time to keep the zipper from breaking, he did have the power to make amends by replacing my case. Honestly, making amends is all a customer can ask for, so when they do ask, try to put yourself in their shoes. If it’s a reasonable request, make it happen.
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE
Even though I sent my complaint on October 27th, I had been stewing about that broken case for weeks. When I finally got a window of time to try and resolve the issue, I wanted to do just that—resolve the issue—right then and there. Upon alerting V-MODA of my problem, Richard responded within a half hour and was empowered to make things happen. He didn’t need to run it by a manager or direct me to someone else—he had the power. In fact, he didn’t even waste time with small talk or apologies—he was solely focused on solving my problem. And to be quite honest, I didn’t mind him skipping the pleasantries one bit. Notice the brevity of my first reply in our exchange above. He tipped me off immediately that he was on a mission to get my issue resolved and I wasn’t about to get in the way of that. The man didn’t even have time to say “hello.” Now that’s acting fast!
GIVE THEM NO CHOICE BUT TO LOVE YOU
When I reached out with my case complaint, I was at a crossroads. I loved the main part of the product (the headphones), but the accessory to the product (the case) was bringing down my overall experience with the brand. From the time I hit send on my complaint, I was in brand-advocacy limbo. The outcome of the eventual correspondence was going to determine what direction I would take. Since my issue was resolved quickly and without question, I was compelled to become the brand advocate I now am. I’ve told at least a dozen people about my positive experience with the brand (not to mention writing this blog post) and have even made unsolicited recommendations for V-MODA to friends I remotely suspect are interested in great headphones. On the other hand, if the company ignored my complaint or left me with a well-intentioned, but otherwise empty apology, my brand advocacy would have died on the vine.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—letting the customer down actually provides the perfect opportunity to save the day and become a hero. When you do, in some cases it actually results in stronger brand advocacy than if you’d never let them down in the first place. I certainly don’t recommend intentionally letting your customers down, but when the inevitable zipper rolls off the tracks, approach it as an opportunity to create a new brand advocate.