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Brand Consequences and Customer Service Mistakes

Managing a brand isn’t always easy. Making a wrong mistake can cause your brand to teeter on the brink of ruin, especially if your mistake significantly affects your customer relations in a negative manner. The best way to avoid problems is to learn from the biggest companies and their mistakes.

Below is an overview of some of the largest brand consequences and the steps that they’ve taken to push their customer relations into ruin. While these brands have been able to avoid ruin, they faced a great deal of criticism and have had to issue public relations statements in order to abate their customer’s anger toward their brand.


Unfortunately, not only is Comcast well-known for its internet and other technology services, it has also gained a reputation for being a brand with one of the worst customer service standards around.

Comcast’s customer service standards have not arisen out of a single event, but out of a year-long string of poor customer relations actions and decisions. The first and most notable customer relations mistakes is when a “customer relation specialist” harassed a customer over the phone about not cancelling his service.

A second prominent example that has gained widespread media attention is Comcast’s tendency to change customer names on their bill statements to derogatory terms. One customer recently received an invoice statement from Comcast and in place of his first name was the A-word. Comcast has since fired the employee responsible and in a statement issued by the recipient of the letter, she notes that the has always been polite to customer retention specialists.

Despite attempting to fix these reoccurring problems, Comcast has been unable to eliminate its reputation as one of the worst companies for customer service. Not only that, but its actions have also cost it in customers and they have reduced incentives for customers to be loyal to the brand.


There are brands that pride themselves upon swift, successful, and effective customer service. If you have a technical glitch or a mechanical problem, then many brands out there will promptly reply and remove the offending article from your abode. Other brands though, most notably Whirlpool, make this process a nightmare that just doesn’t end.

Recently, one couple, Mr. and Mrs. Vintilla, purchased a Whirlpool microwave. Much to their dismay, the new and state-of-the-art machine failed to fulfill the promise made by Whirlpool – it simply wouldn’t microwave.

Despite visits by a serious of repairmen, having a number of parts replaced, and replacing those same parts again, the couple requested to have their microwave exchanged. While Whirlpool eventually conceded to the request after a lengthy fight, the company had a number of requests.

First, the couple was barred from disclosing to the media the events that have transpired with the new microwave. Second, the gesture by Whirlpool to replace the microwave is not because the microwave itself failed to perform properly, but was in light of Whirlpool’s belief in customer loyalty.

Unluckily for Whirlpool, its own failure to properly address a situation and its tendency to provide poor customer service has amplified the issue. Whirlpool is now known as the brand that you simply will have to fight to exchange a purchase with.


Many air travel companies have been getting a great deal of attention in terms of customer service. These days, flights have become extremely costly while customer service has taken a nose dive While most brands are trying to recover and refurbish the image that consumers have tacked onto them, one popular airline has yet to receive the memo.

Ryanair, a low-cost Irish airliner has achieved the highly competitive title of the worst airline in the UK. The brand has been in the news lately for charging customers premium rates despite failing to resolve customer service issues.

A few of its failures in terms of customer service include not instituting a customer service hotline, seriously restricting cabin baggage, charging for in-desk check in and ticket printing, and treating customers poorly while in air.

To make matter’s worse, the brand’s CEO Michael O’Leary went as far as to publically call passengers “idiots” for failing to print out their tickets and getting upset about paying fees. As a result of these public comments and the notoriously offensive customer service, the brand has not only lost customers but has also been fined nearly one million dollars by Italy’s antitrust body.

The brand is looking to fight the action, regardless of whether the brand’s flyers support it or not. For most people though, the fine was well-deserved and acceptable, considering how much the brand has failed its flyers.

Urban Outfitters

Recently, Urban Outfitters have been able to “accomplish” what no brand has been able to do before, which is to offend a number of ethnic groups in a short period of time. The offenses are a result of poor clothing management and design choices, those of which have been quickly revoked one by one once the brand has caught onto severe customer dissatisfaction with its products. A few of the most common examples of Urban Outfitter’s mistakes include:

  • Sale of a grey and white stripped tapestry with an embellished triangle on the right corner. The tapestry was eerily similar to attire worn by prisoners during the Holocaust.
  • A pink sweatshirt with “blood splatters” that was meant to be likened to the 1970’s Kent State Massacre that claimed the lives of four unarmed students.
  • Navajo Nation Clothing Line that utilized the trademarked title of “Navajo.” The line has been characterized of “distastefully and racially demeaning.”

These types of incidents are part of a larger trend at Urban Outfitters, which is the company’s inclination’s to continuously offend certain minority groups. Not only has the offensive content angered these groups, but it has also killed any positive potential that Urban Outfitters has had in a positive brand image.


Walmart is popular for its low prices, competitive product selection, and a wide-range of in-store options. Another thing it is well-known for, and not in a good way, is its failure to manage some of the worst types of customer interactions within its stores.

Walmart has been gaining a great deal of negative press and substantial customer service complaints for the fights and violence that tend to break out within its store. For instance, recently a customer rammed a Walmart employee in the head. Another example of Walmart’s inability to ensure a safe atmosphere is the accidental shooting of a mother by her toddler son while in the store.

Instances such as these have not only led to damage control on behalf of Walmart, but the company has also instituted a new method to assessing customer service feedback. The retail-giant is currently placing customer service assessment kiosks in thousands of its stores across the country to help the brand gauge its performance and how customers feel about the brand. Walmart is hoping that the disclosure is going to allow them to create a better and more friendly environment for those who decide to shop at the store.


While these examples indicate prevalent problems within the commerce world and despite being somewhat amusing, they are also relevant because they can help you manage your brand as best as possible. Understanding the types of mistakes that many big brands make and how those mistakes affect customer loyalty, customer retention, brand image, and customer expectations can help you make sure that you are taking the right steps to protecting your brand.

You certainly don’t want to end up on a list like this in the future, which is why you can take the necessary precautions to protect your image and not only meet customer expectations, but to surpass those expectations.

When formulating the next steps for your brand, you want to do the best job possible in ensuring that your customers are within a safe atmosphere, that their needs are important, and that your customer service specialists are doing the best job possible when it comes to addressing customer concerns and complaints. This type of methodology is the main takeaway from the Comcast example.

In another scenario regarding customer service, you also want to ensure customer satisfaction, which is most easily done through admitting a problem when it exists and fixing the problem as soon as possible. You certainly do not want your brand to end up like Whirlpool, where a pair of customers not only were dissatisfied with the product, but the company’s failure to take action regarding that dissatisfaction led to public disclosure and condemnation of the brand.

The best brands know how to keep their brand is safe waters and are aware about how to address the big problems when they arise so that don’t become out of hand.

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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...

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