There have been a couple of major corporate fails in the last week or so. First came Build-A-Bear Workshops “Pay Your Age” Day. The nationwide event promised shoppers the chance to bring their kids for a day of bear-building magic that would cost them just their child’s age in dollars. Your three-year-old wants a new bear? GREAT! Get them what they want and it will only set you back $3. Unfortunately for the store chain, the day turned into an unmitigated disaster with lines snaking through malls across America, Canada and the UK. Some parents and kids stood in line for six hours or more, only to be turned away with just a coupon. The result? Angry customers and an apologetic B-A-B team.
Fast forward a few days to the annual Amazon Prime Day. This is the day when shoppers rush to the online megastore’s site to get amazing deals on hundreds of items, specifically tech pieces like Kindles, cameras and drones. Unfortunately for Jeff Bezos and crew, the popularity of the day may have been its early downfall as the site suffered major outages and errors, frustrating bargain-hungry consumers.
These are two examples of customer-focused perks that wound up costing the companies in the long run.
So it’s time to ask ourselves, what can we learn from this?
1. Preparation is crucial.
There may not have been any way for the Build-A-Bear team to anticipate what was going to happen or how insanely popular the promotion was. But as the buzz (and then the lines) grew, it seemed there was no clear direction given to stores on how to handle the situation. Without a clear plan before the day started, there was no plan for line management or alternative promotional offers.
2. If something goes wrong, apologize.
You may not get people lined up for 8+ hours to take advantage of an auto loan or share certificate special but if you have a member who was less than satisfied with their service, help them find resolution and give them a sincere “We’re sorry” for their troubles. Yes, even if you aren’t 100% in the wrong. No, some people will never be happy. But remember, a happy person may tell a friend or two about their positive experience. An unhappy person will tell everyone they know. The CEO of Build-A-Bear went on The Today Show to apologize. Did it help? Maybe a little. But not acknowledging the store’s error would have only compounded the angry feelings of those that stood in line. In the case of Amazon, instead of a contrite apology for their issues, they took to Twitter and basically told everyone to calm down and that some people were able to shop without issues — a message that gained them massive negative feedback. (image attached)
3. Recognize that if something goes wrong for you, it could go very right for someone else.
Chuck E. Cheese saw what happened at Build-A-Bear and announced their own Pay Your Age promotion where parents could pay their child’s age for 30 minutes of unlimited game play. While it may not be a huge financial success for them, the pizza-loving mouse earned significant publicity from the offer. Target and Walmart certainly weren’t unhappy to hear of Amazon’s website woes. While estimates say Prime Day earns (or doesn’t earn in this case) about $34 million every hour*, the big box retailers saw their online shopping numbers trend up on Monday during Amazon’s outage. If you see a competitor struggling with something, it is well within your right to offer their customers an alternative. Providing solutions is what the credit union industry is all about.
While the Build-A-Bear and Amazon Prime Day problems hit major nationwide retailers, there are still some valuable takeaways each of us can use to make sure we are managing our member expectations and service. In this case, learning from someone else’s mistake makes the lesson that much better.