A short time ago I purchased a new pair of black  “Julius Marlow” shoes  from a major retailer.  Within a month, the body of the right shoe had separated from the sole, hardly a reasonable result from  a purchase worn around the benign environment of a carpeted office.

I contacted JM, owned by Pacific Dunlop as I discovered, via the web site, after some searching, but OK so far.

Eventually, I got an automated response  to my note of complaint, which required me to engage in more automated “discussion” with the web site, by which time I was pretty annoyed.

After several more automated responses with me becoming more specific about where I would like to stick the machines micro-processors, a very pleasant young lady rang me. Potentially a step forward, but a bit late, and to get anywhere  I had to invest the time to take the shoes back to the store I got them from (I’m sure the staff will be pleased to see me) along with the proof of purchase. Not an option, so as an alternative I could bundle them up and send them, at my cost, to Melbourne, where they would “look at them” .

So, JM failed to deliver what I had paid for,  and reasonably expected, having worn many of their shoes over my life. After they failed, they expected me to spend more of my  time, and money, to further satisfy them of their failure, with no notion of any outcome to me. The final indignity, after the final email from me, was an automated response that quoted the “incident” number, followed by the words “Incident resolved”

Through this saga, I was reminded of the work by economist Ernst Fehr, and an experiment  well known as the “trust game” which seemingly identifies a biological link between  peoples behavior in getting revenge against those who have dudded them, even when the revenge behavior appears on the surface to be well over the top.

The point to all this is if you set out to communicate with customers when they are a bit off put, and fail to meet their expectations in that communication, and the ensuing resolution,  a bit off-put can turn into behavior that seeks to extract revenge for the dudding, and in the world of the web, that revenge has the potential to stuff your brand very quickly indeed. Imagine, I made  short video of obviously brand new JM shoes with the sole half off and putting it on you tube with some  creative fun being had, sending it to a few friends, and having it go viral. How much damage could that do to the brand (but probably unfortunatley not to the dills responsible) who stuffed up a simple communication with a long term and relatively loyal customer?