I love my veterinarians! (My dogs do too… well, sort of.) Great local business with major community involvement and I’m impressed with how they’re always looking for ways to do business better. Being in the promotional products business, you can bet that I took note when I received one from them in the mail. Here’s what I got…
In a first class stamped envelope I received a little dog waste pickup bag holder with a postcard that apologized for recent manufacturer shortages of my dogs’ heartworm medications. Nice gesture. But, honestly, the shortage situation didn’t bother me all that much since there was a reasonable alternative med available. I think it bothered the vets more than the patients (for sure) and pet parents.
That got me thinking. Should promotional products be used when making apologies to customers?
First of all, this promotion was costly! The product itself was at least a buck or two each and the practice has hundreds of patients. Next, the postage stamps on the envelope were about $1.77. Then there was the special full color printed postcard enclosed. And that doesn’t include the labor to put it all together and bring to the post office. So we could be easily looking at several bucks each. All this for a situation over which the vets had no control, making an apology unnecessary.
There’s also the possibility when using promotional items for apologies that customers who were really ticked off at the situation will be incensed by a paltry substitute for a solution. At the kindest, they may give it away, recycle or (God forbid!) send it on its way to the landfill by trashing it. They may also use it to poke fun at the business. Plus, because it’s associated with a negative scenario, they may always be reminded about the business’ mess up.
Here are reasons to seriously consider whether a promotional product apology :
- Is a “Gift” Apology Necessary? More than apologies, customers are really looking for your help in making things better, even if not perfect. In the example scenario, the vet was only responsible for finding a suitable substitute for the unavailable medication, which they did. The vet had absolutely no control over the medication manufacturer’s production issues. Using the promotional product gift to apologize was very expensive and not necessary.
- How Much Would It Cost to Correct (or Calm) the Situation versus Sending a Promotion? In our example, the vet could have mailed a photocopied coupon to affected customers for maybe a few bucks off the next medication purchase. Could have also used email. Either way, it would have been cheaper and probably more appealing to customers. A promotion is no substitute for providing a solution.
- Could Sending a Promotional Product Backfire? If the problem really ticked off a lot of customers, then anything (sometimes even reasonable solutions) will be met with resistance and ridicule. You also don’t want to remind them of the problem every time they use the promotional item.
- How Serious is the Problem? For very serious problems that involve injury, illness or serious loss as a result of a problem, consult appropriate insurance, legal or other professionals for resolution steps… and not your promotional products distributor!
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