Timing is Everything

By Dustin King

We’ve all heard the phrase “timing is everything” and when it comes to messaging your company’s services, that timing can lead to either a successful brand experience or an ultimate failure for your brand reputation.

Allow me to share an experience I recently had with my bank of 23 years. A week before my family was to leave on a Caribbean cruise, I called my local branch and notified them that I will be out of the country on vacation. I made sure to share my itinerary and the countries we would be stopping in. The bank representative assured me that the information would be noted on my account and that I would not have any problems using my debit card on the trip. I’m sure you can guess where this is going. On our first excursion off the ship we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at a small beach-side club. That was, until I attempted to pay the tab with my debit card and it was denied. My relaxing day at the beach instantly turned into a stressful situation, worrying if I had enough cash on me to pay the tab and cover a cab back to the ship. NOT a fun way to start a vacation!

What made the situation even more annoying was that I was unable to check my account information online or from the app on my smartphone because of the lack of Wi-Fi on the ship. Fortunately, a very helpful gentleman at the ship’s Guest Services desk offered to call my bank so I could inquire about the issues with my card. Trust me, I was not happy when the phone representative notified me that there was never any note placed on my account so as a fraud prevention measure the bank froze my card the minute it saw the charge from a foreign country. I’m all for fraud protection measures, but this time I did exactly what I was supposed to do to avoid any headaches on my vacation, and my bank’s customer service department failed to do their part.

All in all, my family had a great vacation and the hiccup with the debit card would have probably been forgotten. That was until I received a marketing email from my bank the week after our return with the subject line, “Going on vacation? Manage your money with our online banking tools!” The subject line alone tweaked me, then I really got irritated by the “travel tip” they included in the email: Travel Tip: If your travel plans take you outside of the United States this summer, it’s a good idea to notify the bank where you will be traveling. Doing so helps us to know where you will be using your debit card and avoid any potential disruption in services.

WHAT?! Are you kidding me! I actually had to laugh at the timing of this communication. If I had received this a week prior to my vacation I probably would have appreciated the reminder and credited my bank with providing helpful information — ultimately building brand loyalty. Unfortunately, I received this email a week after having a negative experience with my bank, in this case an experience where they completely failed to execute on the exact service they were promoting in the email.

Just as I started out this story with the phrase, “timing is everything,” a successful brand experience is something that must be repeated “time and time again.” No matter what the industry or service, making claims or promoting services that are not consistently executed throughout your organization will inevitably lead to a failed brand experience. And ultimately the loss of a loyal customer.

Obviously, my local bank branch is not the first to have a customer service breakdown. What I’m concerned with is, if a brand leads with service as a pillar of their positioning, they’d better be great at service. And even more so, consistent with that great service. If not, they’ll soon learn that they need to redefine their brand strategy and find a new brand pillar to promote since they will have lost all of their loyal customers.

To wrap up my story, I did reply to the promotional email from my bank with a friendly reminder that they had failed to deliver on their service claim and notified them that I may be looking to change banks in the near future. No word back from them yet.

Have you had an experience with a brand that made good on a failed customer service event? Was Customer Service a pillar of their brand? Stay tuned for 7 steps to help brands recover from a customer service failure.