Monday, June 23, 2014

let the seller beware……

Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, is a phrase most of us have known for most of our lives. It is a message that the buyer must be vigilant when buying or using services.

Over the years, consumers gained footing and power through organizing groups, TV action lines and publications such as Consumer Reports. While these avenues of information were well meaning and sometimes a little sticky, they never really changed the way business was done.

Well, times have changed.

Over the weekend, I saw a post on Facebook about how a store manager from Walgreen’s denied entry of a veteran with a service dog into the store. The store manager cited store policy and stood firm. There was video.

Within hours, this video and story went viral on Facebook. Walgreen’s quickly addressed the incident and said it would investigate, saying it is not their policy to deny service dogs in their stores. In other words, it was a mistake by an employee.

But, that didn’t stop the story. Even after Walgreen’s acknowledged the situation, re-postings continued and continued. Millions of people saw and made judgment of Walgreen’s based on this one incident, not of a corporate policy or decision, but a judgment error.

Companies can spend decades developing their brand reputation with sterling performance and a single incident can tarnish that in a heartbeat. Even Target, with strong customer loyalty, found the wrath of consumers with a security breach and a CEO was dismissed.

What does that mean to you and me? As consumers, you are now given the club to go after anyone for any reason. Sometimes, anger and vindictiveness will supersede common sense.

You need to know the difference between the act of a person and the act of a corporation. Sometimes the person with the name tag is representing something other than the company’s intentions. Most companies are more than willing, and in most cases, want to hear of a rogue employee’s actions and will take action.

For companies, it’s a new day. You have a new accountability. The consumer has power they’ve never seen or had. They will use it, sometimes wisely, sometimes unwisely. You need to communicate your core values to your customers and employees, and you have to be accountable to each and every decision, each and every employee, and each and every consumer.

You have to communicate and create access to affected consumers and employees to reach the proper outcomes. That doesn’t mean you have to roll over. But, rather, it means you have to place emphasis and attention to areas other than the bottom line.

In the end, if each part of this equation works properly, there should be balance between company, employee and customer, with each having their say.

- Tom Erdman