I’m Truly Sorry For My Lousy Blogging, I Know I’ve Let You Down

I can’t remember exactly where I read it, but someone recently said that JetBlue’s handling of the Valentine’s Day crisis (i.e., Neeleman’s apology) will go down in marketing history as a case example of how to respond in a customer service crisis. And now, Marketing Daily reports that Home Depot’s new CEO gave “an unusually candid, plain-talking apology to readers of MSN Money.” According to the publication, Frank Blake said:

There’s no way I can express how sorry I am for all of the stories you shared. I recognize that many of you were loyal and dedicated shoppers of The Home Depot … and we let you down. That’s unacceptable.”

So this is the new marketing. No chest-thumping, “we’re better than everyone else” claims of superiority. Apparently, the way to win over today’s consumers is to bow your head in humility and confess your sins. It’s conjuring up images of Jimmy Swaggert all over again.

Few firms are going to get away with this. What made the apology work for JetBlue was Neeleman’s sincerity. I (and I’m sure, many others) believed that he was truly sorry. And as the founder and [still] CEO of the company, Neeleman’s imprint and DNA are still all over the company. So we believe the company is sorry. And because many of my past experiences with the company have been positive, many of us will accept the apology and give the firm another chance.

But are Home Depot customers as willing to accept the new CEO’s apology as readily? I wouldn’t bet on it, and here’s why: He hasn’t earned the right to ask for our forgiveness. The actions of his firm don’t sync with his apology. In short, it won’t come off as sincere.

And that’s the new marketing weapon — sincerity. It’s why, in financial services, credit unions can compete with the big banks. Because they’re perceived to be sincere when they claim to be an advocate for the customer (not the other way around), and claim that they want to help their customers (members) manage their financial lives. It’s hard for many people to believe the big banks’ claims when they’re hit with snowballing fees every time they bounce a check.

Doing business with a firm — and being loyal — is a relationship. And we want relationships with people and firms we believe to be sincere about wanting a relationship back. This isn’t easy stuff. You have to earn it — you can’t simply make the claim that you’re sincere in your next marketing campaign.

Well, anyway, I can’t express how truly sorry I am for the lousy quality of this post. I promise to never let it happen again. In fact, I’m going to publish a Blogreaders’ Bill of Rights that will guarantee you high quality in all my posts.

But if you think there’s going to be financial recompense, keep dreaming.

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4 thoughts on “I’m Truly Sorry For My Lousy Blogging, I Know I’ve Let You Down

  1. JetBlue could apologize because they have a reputation of stellar customer service. Home Depot? That’s like DMV apologizing. Or the phone company (last I checked they were calling themselves AT&T again).

    Home Depot – “We don’t have to care, we’re huge.”
    I don’t want your apology, I want someone to help me find the wood glue for crying out loud. And don’t just say aisle 13. Have you been down aisle 13? It’s the length of a football field.

    Thanks – that felt good.

  2. You’ve nailed the difference between you and me, Denise. You just need to *find* the wood glue. I, on the other hand, don’t have a clue when to use wood glue versus Elmer’s glue.

    And this is why Lowe’s is kicking Home Depot’s butt. They understood that it’s WOMEN making these decisions and doing a lot of the work around (and not just in) the house. You gotta know who your customers are.

  3. Ron,

    You’re so right. Lowe’s does get it. Their stores are prettier and cleaner and have lots of sparkly things. But ACE Hardware is where I’m so not afraid to ask detailed questions about a project. Those guys rock my world!

    Denise : – )

    PS — I used wood glue yesterday. Building a trelis for my rose garden.

  4. When I was reading this post just now I was thinking about Jimmy Swaggert’s tearful confession also (“I have sinned!!!”). I too would put the Home Depot mea culpa on the same level of insincerity.

    The JetBlue story is a great contrast to Home Depot’s asleep-at-the-switch apology. I think a key is transparency. JetBlue had laid a foundation of credibility. It has walked the walk publicly for so long when it comes to customer service. The apology didn’t strain credulity because it was in a context where it could be believed.

    Another CEO who deserves praise for providing a high level of transparency with customers is Whole Food’s John Mackey. Here’s a very public debate he held with Michael Pollen regarding some negative things about Whole Foods written in his latest book (I also enjoyed Pollen’s “The Botany of Desire” — who knew agriculture could be so interesting?):

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