MEDIA & MARKETING | Contributed Content, Singapore
Jacky Tan

What we can learn from the Old Chang Kee incident on handling customers


Especially today, with the advent of internet, social media and many people having their own smart phones and tablets, being nice to your customers is so important. And it is so much important when your company is a prominent brand in your country.

The more prominent your brand is, the higher the expectation your customers will look upon you. Every single action you or your staffs do, whether it is big or small, good or bad, it will affect your image and reputation, and it will be amplified instantly.

You can mark my words for that.
Take a look about the recent case on the Old Chang Kee incident at Singpost centre where a regular customer who bought their pastry almost every working day; found a dark brown insect in its signature sardine puff. 

The customer demanded an explanation and apology from Old Chang Kee staffs there. However, the staffs are not apologetic and were rude to the affected customer where one of them raised her voice against her (the customer).

To add salt to the ground, the management failed to be accountable to address the problem immediately, making the customer feel ‘neglected’ and as a result, the customer resorted to handle the situation by herself and all she need to do is to tell all her friends about this bad experience through social media; and their friends will tell their other friends and this will go on eternally. And this will affect company reputation and long term profits.

Many big brands today still make this terrible mistake of offending customers by ignoring or delaying their feedback and enquiries, just because they are big. And because you are big, you need to pay more attention to every single customer of yours especially in today’s era, if not, your CEOs and your shareholders will regret, big time.

What we can learn from the Old Chang Kee’s incident is that all customers today have the freedom to say what’s on their mind, whether they are nice things or not very nice feedbacks about your brand. You should take the feedback quickly and be accountable for it.

Please don’t take it superficially as your customers can see and feel it, whether you are genuinely concerning about their worries or not. With the advance of social media and smart phone technologies, people can influence their friends instantly with just a ‘tab’.

Old Chang Kee should have done these things at the moment of the incident to prevent complaints and nasty remarks at social media now, from happening.

Be Apologetic First
If the staffs at the incident outlet apologized sincerely to the affected customer immediately, I don’t think that the customer will not forgive them. Instead of apologizing, the staffs are being defensive by trying to debate with the affected customer that the insect may or may not be caused by them.

Please take note of this, if you are the affected customer and you are already very, very angry with the situation, if someone is being defensive against you, would you be angrier? Right?

Managers need to understand about human nature. Every person is good in nature. However, there are moments where something could ignite that anger inside you, what the company needs to do is to cool that anger down back to its good nature by simply, apologizing.

The problem with most companies is that apologizing is ‘losing face’ so they prefer to debate and defend instead. The more you do that, the worse your company’s reputation gets.

Whether or not your company is at fault, it doesn’t matter at the moment of the incident. Just apologize sincerely first, and then investigate on the matter. You have more to gain and nothing to lose if you have the courage to apologize.

Empower All Staffs to Own “Momentarily” Problems
Old Chang Kee should learn from Ritz Carlton’s service culture. Ritz Carlton, is one of the most service-oriented hotels in the world; at Ritz Carlton, all staffs from the housekeeper, bellboy, caterer to the general manager, have the power to solve momentarily problems should they occur and they can do little things, at the company’s expense, in order to make hotel guests happy.

Each staff can spend up to $2000 making any single guest satisfied, without reporting to the management in the hierarchy unlike most companies.

This empowerment on all its staffs can definitely improve and protect the company’s reputation should unexpected problems occur. Should the outlet manager own the problem and resolve it immediately, the increasing nasty word of mouth marketing about the brand on the internet may not happen at all.

Respond Immediately and Don’t Ignore
The worst thing ever, which a company would do to customers, is to ignore them. This is highly visible especially for the big MNCs or uprising brands today. When customers complain or asking for an enquiry, representatives of the company must respond to the customers immediately.

The longer you make them wait, the angrier they will become. Some companies who have automated phone system should destroy the system if it is making people wait long minutes on the phone. Your customers want to be heard by a human being so your representative should respond quickly and listen to the customer complaints or enquiry actively. Your company must respond fast, do not wait until a few days later when you are very free to call the customer because it will be too late.

In summary, companies’ managers and CEOs should learn from the O.C.K incident as unexpected situations may happen to any company anytime. By being prepared early for them, they can turn these unexpected problems around into something positive for their brand instead.

Jacky Tan, Senior Marketing PR Manager (Asia Pacific), Evorich Flooring Group

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Jacky Tan

Jacky Tan

Jacky is a brand strategist, professional marketing writer, blogger, speaker, and author. He leads 'Jack and Chaz', a boutique marketing and branding agency in Singapore.

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