Beyond Word-of-Mouth; Getting Your Customers to Participate in Your Brand – November 5, 2008 – Dusted off for today’s TBT

Yesterday morning, when I was thinking about this blog, it was actually shaping up to be quite a different post. But then, the events of yesterday changed things.

Originally, I was going to write about ways to encourage your customers to participate in your brand. I thought about some brands that I happily participate in. For example, having long been a Seth Godin fan, not just reading all his books and his blog daily, but occasionally posting a quote from him on our blog or recommending a book.  I’ve joined his ‘fan club’ and received his book ‘Tribes’ before it was officially released.

There are many examples of great ways to encourage participation with your brand in a positive way in that book.

But then, yesterday happened. Sure, it was election day. But then, it was also the day that I had quite possibly my worst ever experience as a customer (well, as a potential customer)…

Being relatively new to the area, I took the lazy, convenient way of finding a place to board my dogs (the Petsmart across the street). I won’t bore you with the exhaustive details, but it started with three phone calls to their veterinary department, Banfield, to schedule a shot. (One that they are current on for every other kennel I have talked to since, but that is another story.) They ‘lost’ my information (apparently twice because I had to fill out a form that reiterated what I had told two other employees). 

I was forced (before any vet would see them) to watch their sales video (Sure, I get advertising to a captive audience [stuck in the exam room].  But please, this was more torturous than a time share experience).  I was told that my dogs (who, did I mention are current on all of their vaccines) needed hundreds of dollars of shots that Banfield recommends, ugh. I declined the ‘recommended vaccines.’  But, it got worse (didn’t think it could, but it did). So, I left.

I can’t think of any experience that I’ve EVER had as a customer that was worse. Apparently, Banfield has a system to generate the most revenue based on annoying sales tactics (the video), deceptive tactics (pulling up a list of vaccines that are not necessary), and trying other ways to charge for services that are unneccesary. So, I will participate in their brand. I will tell every pet owner who I talk to about my experience and never, ever even shop in Petsmart, as they must see this practice as not a problem.

My point is, there are two ways that customers who will participate in your brand can participate – and there are not that many customers who will. So, you can choose.  Choose by the way you treat your customers (or mistreat them).

2020 Update – Well, not actually 2020, but November 14, 2008. I just couldn’t not include this happy ending. Here is the email I received from my dogs from where I did board them:

“Having a blast at Best Friends Fairfax…wish you were here!
I’d love to tell you all about it, but since I can’t talk my Best Friends agreed to send this photo along to you instead.

See you soon!
Simon & Cash”

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