Reputation at risk from third parties

A story in the Motoring section in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph highlights how simple things that go wrong can become the big things in a customer’s mind that marrs an overall positive impression of an organization and its brands.

The story is about writer Patsy Weaver’s mixed experience on a visit to the Mercedes-Benz factory in Germany to pick up her brand new Mercedes SLK 200K sports car. She writes about the pitfalls on her trip from the UK to Germany, her less than stellar experience in the Mercedes factory itself, and further pitfalls on her return trip home.

The pitfalls were all related to events outside Mercedes’ direct control, to do with travel and accommodation. Yet in the mind of the customer, they were all to do with Mercedes, especially as the travel and accommodation were arranged by the company and actually paid for by the customer:

[…] If Mercedes-Benz did package holidays, wouldn’t they be the smoothest, classiest ones around? I would have thought so, too, until I went on a Mercedes-organised awayday. Thomas Cook needn’t lose any sleep.

Weaver is a good writer and tells a good story. While her delight in her new car is high, her positive perception of Mercedes-Benz has clearly dropped a few notches so there is a very serious element to this story, a key message to any organization who cares what customers think about them and their brands:

[…] Our experience carries a warning for all marketing departments, however. Placing a company’s reputation in the hands of others – in our case an impatient taxi driver, an inflexible receptionist and the head waiter from hell – can jeopardise a good name.

Daily Telegraph | Motoring | Mercedes takes a break from five-star service (reg required)