A lesson in customer relations…

A lesson in customer relations…

by Kriss Akabusi

I don’t often write this kind of post, but I’ve just had to get my thoughts down on a recent experience I’ve had – and I would love to hear your thoughts too!


We hear so much in business about the customer – the customer is king, the customer’s perception is your reality, and Bill Gates’ “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”.  And today, I feel like a pretty unhappy customer!


Since I was 17 years old, I’ve worn Chanel Antaeus – it’s the scent I’ve come to associate with myself, and those who know me associate with me too.  It’s part of me and it expresses who I am – it’s a personal thing!


I’m a particular fan of the range’s Emulsion Apres Rasage.  It’s a soothing balm you use after shaving, but it also has a really long-lasting scent.  Now, last year, I heard rumours that it was going to be discontinued, but not much more than that – certainly nothing official from Chanel – so I didn’t really think anything of it.  Then, last week, I went into Milton Keynes to buy some more – and that’s when the problems started…  


I tried Debenhams, I tried John Lewis, I tried Boots.  None of them had it – the line’s been stopped.  The assistant in Debenhams told me she’s had to turn away at least ten people all asking for the same product, all of a similar age to me, all undoubtedly with a good disposable income.


Now, I could get the aftershave lotion instead, but it’s very sharp and doesn’t soothe – it’s not what I want!  I want the Emulsion Apres Rasage!  I’ve now found myself at a loss after investing over 40 years as a loyal customer of Chanel, desperately trying to find something else to fill the gap I’ve relied on for so long.  I did some research online to find something with a similar woody, bergamot, lavender tone – coming across Armani Code and Fahrenheit in the process, as well as an £8.95 apres-rasage from The Body Shop.  Now, this could potentially save my relationship with Chanel, as I may be able to continue using the Antaeus range while using the Body Shop apres-resage.


But, more likely, I’ll find myself discontinuing my relationship with the whole range, and spend the next 20 years investing in a company, like Armani or Fahrenheit, which does meet all my needs with their product range.


And this is a lesson a brand has to learn: without showing understanding of your customer, you risk losing their business entirely.


Now, I understand sometimes a product isn’t profitable for a company and they need to cut costs.  And, despite the number of men in the same position as me right now, I hope Chanel had the sense to do some pretty hefty research on their customer base before making this decision.  


However, there’s more than one way to skin a cat!  I’m feeling frustrated right now – not just because the product’s been stopped – but because, despite being a loyal customer who has invested tens of thousands of pounds in the company over the years, I was given no warning, and no alternative product.  I feel like I’ve been dumped!


When a company makes a decision like this, they can damage the brand – just like we explored in The Trust Equation.  Chanel is a credible brand, but I now feel they’ve lost reliability and intimacy, doing it all in their self-interest.


So what could they have done instead?  And what can you take from this experience for your business?


When it comes to personal products that contribute to a customer’s identity – your scents, your clothing, even your cars – there’s much more at stake, and this understanding needs to be shown somehow:

  • Once you realise a product will be scrapped, communicate that to your customer
  • Explain why, explain when it will happen, and that you understand their disappointment
  • Do it on a card handed out at purchase, train staff to give the right explanation, communicate through your mailing list
  • Offer an alternative or give advice as to which products could be used instead


Bottom line: treat your customer like a shareholder.  They have a stake in your business, and don’t underestimate it!  Communicate properly with them, and you might just have a chance of keeping them.


What other ideas do you have for improving customer relationships in these kind of circumstances? Let me know in the comments below!

Kriss' Blog
Back to Latest News
Contact Kriss
The Akabusi Company
01525 237177