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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Office Depot got bit in the ass

I know some people like to think that advertising consists of just big graphic ads, or little text links - that adverts are the beginning, middle and end of advertising, controlled by the company, with the purpose of getting their name out there and getting customers to sit up and take notice.

Oh no, kids - nothing could be further from the truth. Advertising is everything about the company that's out in the public sphere, and that includes things that are being said by critics and customers. At one time you could have full control over your corporate image, but these days and with the Internet being what it is, a customer in London will hear about it pretty soon if you piss off another customer in Toronto.

People talk. You're a fool if you don't listen.

Here's a case in point: Office Depot, purveyor of all things office-related, including computers.


Image and story courtesy of Enterprise Irregulars.

Guy goes to buy netbook. Guy sees good offer on website. Guy also sees what appears to be the exact same netbook for $150 more, and probably wonders whether Office Depot are actually proofing this stuff before it goes live on their website. Guy goes to buy cheaper model - oops, no stock. If you want it, you'll need to pay more.

Can you say PR disaster in the making? That blog post is on the front page when you google 'deceptive advertising'. Guy even tries to contact Office Depot and get some info about what the hell is up with the price, and the chat log of the conversation between him and the customer service monkey is painful to read.

Let us count the fails:

  • Listing two identical laptops on your site, with two vastly different prices, and the only indicator that they are in any way different is the teeny model number
  • Talking like a robot reading from a script when the customer comes to you looking for info
  • Suggesting to the customer to buy the more expensive model (seriously, he thought this was appropriate?! The whole point of the conversation was how that model was $150 more for no visible benefit!)
  • No sign of working with the customer to get them the laptop they want, when a few OD employees confirm in the comments that stock was available in some stores

What are Office Depot getting when they fail this hard? A link to deceptive advertising from a blog post written in January that's still being read now. Not bad for $150.

Apparently the guy was contacted by Executive Customer Relations, which is corporate speak for "Oh Shit People Are Talking About Us Negatively, How Do We Stop It". I'm sure he probably got his laptop, but think of the bad publicity that could have been avoided. That kinda adds one last fail to the list:

  • Not doing anything to fix the problem until it's blindingly obvious that the damage has been done

Seriously, that blog post could have been all about how Office Depot bent over backwards in order to get the guy a laptop, or how they decided to discount one for him as a gesture of goodwill, or how they explained why the more expensive one was more expensive, or... you get the idea. No wonder their stocks have been falling over the last year.

Companies have to get past the mindset that advertising is only what they put out themselves. Advertising is every customer who's willing to talk about you as well. You can't control what they say - and believe me, even trying to is another PR disaster waiting to happen - but that doesn't mean you can't at least influence them in a good way. It all starts with customer service, and actually caring about the people who buy from you.

CJ, over and out

2 comments:

JadeDragon said...

Very engaging blog. I'm looking forward to seeing what else you come up with.

by CJ Garrett said...

Great holy hell... someone's commented!

VALIDATION! *dance dance dance* :D

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