Mary Schmidt makes a great point in the comments of a previous post where I outline Mercedes’ mangled response to a catastrophic engine failure that happened with our E320 while my wife was driving my son to his birthday party.
In it she asks the basic question that any marketer should ask themselves when faced with irate customers who warn their friends about the bad customer experience they had with a company: “Hmmm. Would be interesting to tally up: 1. How many people read your blog; 2. How many comment here; 3. How many link to this post (and then comment). And so on. Seems to me Mercedes is losing some business out of this, ya think? Perhaps you should do a conservative example cost benefit analysis and send it along to the CEO. Say, “Lost 5 customer at $60K each” versus repair of existing customers’ engine, and so on….You can count me among the “lost” I’ll certainly never think of buying a Mercedes (new, used or classic) after reading this horror story.”
This is so true. Close to 4,000 people read the story so far – and that is just on my site, it does not include all the readers of stories that were picked up by many other sites (one of which made it into Yahoo news for over a day). Everyday multiple people find my stories from googling some Mercedes related search terms. And it even came with some unintended consequences, like having some people who are mentioned in the stories (and who never had the courtesy to get back to me) have my story show up first when you Google them.
For a blogger it is an ethical dilemma as to whether or not to write up a bad experiences like this. For this story I gave Mercedes ample time to respond to me first, and whenever I had a new rant or gripe, I sent it to them first. But the whole situation was ludicrous enough to justify my going public with the story. A 5 year old $60K products that fails after 100K of mostly highway miles should result in an answer that is different than “it’s your fault and we can give you $6,000 for the car in a trade-in.”
For a company which started losing money hand over fist, and which tumbled to 21st place in customer satisfaction, and which lost its title of world’s best selling premium brand to BMW for the first time in since 1993, you would expect a different response. It would have been easy, and relativelly low cost, for them to continue to keep me as a believer in their brand promise. And at my age, I might have bought 2 or 3 more of their cars in my lifetime. That will clearly not happen now, and there is at least one other confirmed person who will never buy their products again because of this story. The ROI on their way of handling the situation is clearly not in their favor when you look at it this way.