One bad policy can destroy a brand

One bad policy can destroy a brand

I was on the receiving end of a customer experience this week that completely and irrevocably changed the opinion I had of a particular company. And while I’m tempted to name and shame, there’s a bigger lesson to be shared.

Without going into specifics of what and who, the crux of the situation was the unilateral application of a truly horrendous policy (that I knew nothing about) against me. Not because of anything I had done, but because they thought I might do something because someone else at some time had.

When I pointed out that I was offended and that what they were doing was unfair in the extreme their answer was the ultimate non-response response…

“You shouldn’t be offended, it’s just policy…”

First. They don’t get to tell me (or any customer) that I shouldn’t be offended. My feelings are mine and they don’t get to tell me what they should be. Second. Nothing is ever “just” a policy. Somewhere along the line someone made a decision to treat all customers by the lowest denominator. They decided to take that something someone else did once and use it as an excuse to treat everyone as if they will do it too.

Sadly though, my experience last week is not isolated. It’s all too easy to find examples. I bet I could walk into the company of nearly everyone reading this and find at least one so called policy that fit that bill.

It’s little wonder that when I was doing some customer experience interviews on a project recently and asked participants to tell me about any good customer experience they had recently had with any company, only two of over 20 people could come up with anything at all.

Meanwhile, let’s go back to the horrendous experience that triggered this post. What was even more disappointing was this was a company I had always been satisfied dealing with. They didn’t have my undying love but I felt we were solid acquaintances with lots of positives to build on.

Now, well there is nothing they will ever be able to do to convince me to remain a customer. Nothing. My view of them changed completely and irrevocably on the basis of that one thing. And that’s how brands get destroyed. Not by the big stuff, but by those small “just policy” decisions.

So my plea to you this week is don’t be that company. Don’t judge and treat your 99 good customers against the standard set by the one bad one. It’s lazy punitive, terrible for your business and brand.

And, yes, nearly a week later I am still offended.

See you next week.

Get your brand questions answered by posting them on twitter @michelhogan or emailing me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Michel is an Independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.



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