We’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve seen big brands shoot themselves in the foot simply by treating their customers badly.
Businesses need to understand that good PR starts with good customer service: treat your customers as you would like to be treated yourself and the positive word of mouth will soon spread.
A story that did the rounds in the Nottingham Post and the Lincolnshire Echo yesterday is a case in point: a breastfeeding mum was asked to leave Sports Direct in Nottingham and was left in tears trying to feed her baby in the rain outside.
The ham-fisted way in which the woman was asked to leave was bad enough; she says she then tried five times to complain to Sports Direct but received no reply. Even calls from the media seeking a comment were ignored.
The story is a perfect example of a big brand getting it wrong and then compounding things by refusing to engage or acknowledge their mistake.
They should have gone back to basics and thought: how would I like to be treated in the same situation? Then they should have thought: how can we turn this bad news story around?
There was apparently no justification for asking the lady to leave; when the young mum complained Sports Direct should have seized the opportunity to apologise, offer to make amends and either amend its policy or improve its staff training.
By the time the media got involved the bad news story was almost out of control, but there was still an opportunity to belatedly put things right. Refusing to engage has just made things much worse and cast Sports Direct in a very unflattering light.
Sports Direct’s owner Mike Ashley is known for his PR gaffes – just ask long-suffering fans of Newcastle United, the club he bought in 2007. Perhaps he and his staff need to go back to basics and remember to look after their customers. JA