My wife’s mother lives with us.
My wife’s sister sent mother a Cold Water Creek gift certificate for $100. They ordered a sweater and top which totaled $114. My wife put the extra $14 on her credit card.
When the sweater arrived, they found it was the wrong size and sent it back. A Cold Water Creek representative called and said my wife’s credit card would be billed for $114.
What ensued was a 30-minute conversation with my wife explaining over and over that she was returning the top for a larger size and that $100 of that was from a gift certificate. The rep did not understand and said we’d be billed for $114. Exasperated, my wife asked to speak to the woman’s manager. At first the manager was cold and formal, but after 10 minutes did understand the problem.
My wife’s mother may or may not receive the right size top. We may or may not be billed $114.
Why do I say “may or may not?” Because we have no confidence in Cold Water Creek now. This probably isn’t fair. Maybe my wife just got a dud of a rep. But fairness isn’t the issue. The feeling is.
What are the short term effects of the communication lapse? Well, my wife will probably think long and hard about ordering anything else from there.
What are the long term effects?
My wife will tell her friends and relatives about the experience. I’ll tell folks in my office. Chances are pretty good that they’ll tell at least their spouses. Chances are very good that someone these people know will mention Cold Water Creek — could be tomorrow or a year from now. And one of these friends –two or three times removed — may well say, “Hmm. I have a friend who had a bad experience there.” They don’t even have to remember what the bad experience was. In this era of fast thoughts and short messages, “bad experience” is all a listener needs to hear.
Good and bad experiences apply everywhere — businesses, organizations, colleges and universities.
Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful and works both ways. The world is a very small place these days.
People talk, email, text message.
And they blog.