When Bad things go Good

We all make mitsakes.


In this socially aware, 24/7 culture it has become apparent that any companies which makes their customers lives harder, that mess up their customer service, or even just the core business they offer, must be aware that the public perception now is that they deserve to feel our wrath (oh, and they do!) A recent example being the BA customer so mad he bought a promoted tweet to complain to the world.


Yet I cannot help but feel that if someone makes an honest mistake, that they acknowledge, apologise and go out of their way to compensate/rectify accordingly, then I think these companies deserve our credit.
In fact I would recommend that companies capitalise on this and promote their error. I hate the expression ‘spin’ – the negative connotations are too strong – but it doesn’t need to be insidious in nature if executed well, much like how the best answer to the classic interview question “what are your major faults” an opportunity for you to highlight just how amazing even your personal foibles can be (I like to go with “I care too much”… OK maybe not)


The best customer-focused companies spin themselves out of a bad situation with panache. It doesn’t need to be about self-flagellation or bowing as low as possible (As impressively demonstrated by the board at Olympus), or a full-page ad in the press. Sometimes the circumstances are right for the best approach to be to push forward, such as the wonderful example from several years ago* where a lady collected her new VW Golf but due to a fault in production the vehicle had been delivered to the dealer with NO oil in the engine. Not just too little oil – zero. Metal on metal.


So she drives away and get five miles down the road before the engine inevitably seizes up catastrophically. Bad day for the VW dealer and the PR department must have been worried. But they did a smart thing, besides making sure the poor lady had her car replaced and she was suitably compensated.  They used this as a promotional tool – they released a statement about the incident stating:


“Our engines are so well engineered that they can go 5 miles with no oil!!”


Always look for that silver lining, no matter how burned and smoking it may be.










* This anecdote took place long before the internet age and I cannot find an archive to link to. But I do remember the news article and it has stuck with me. Worst case, it’s a great urban legend but still serves as an example to my point.

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