Yesterday’s outrage at retail chain JB Hi-Fi’s refusal to let a man with Down syndrome enter its store has seen the brand come under a roaring fire. Damage to the brand has “unquestionably” happened, said DDB Group Australia’s corporate communications director Melissa Simpson, and she believes the public will want more than just an apology from the company.
The news hit the headlines on Tuesday morning, after James Milne and his family went to go into a JB Hi-Fi store the day before. The security guard stopped Milne upon entering, believing he was someone on the banned entry list who also had a genetic disorder.
A post from Milne’s sister’s on her Facebook page, who documented the event, the security personnel reportedly said the two men “looked the same” despite Milne having different colour skin and hair.
The Facebook post was shared thousands of times with many media outlets picking up the story.
A petition was started, calling for the tech retail chain to apologise to the family and to do something about the treatment of consumers. JB Hi-Fi has since apologised and said it will overhaul its policies as a result, however no doubt the brand’s reputation is tarnished at the moment.
While Simpson says the apology is good, the public will want more.
“This was a very hard story to digest on many levels and my heart went out to the Milne family,” she told B&T. “Firstly – I do acknowledge the steps JB CEO Richard Murray has taken with ‘unreservedly’ apologising and outreaching directly to the Milne family. The fact that Corporate do not accept or even try and justify this is a step in the right direction.
“However, the public will want more and the customer experience process across all touch points with a particular focus on staff training needs to be reviewed and shared.
“JB Hi-Fi need to ensure their core values filter through all levels of customer experience from security to management.”
Simpson said the company should release another statement outlining exactly what steps the brand is implementing to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
While there are multiple brand touch points consumers come into contact with, Jared Woods, social media manager at social agency History Will Be Kind, said it’s paramount brands remember to control every branded place.
“Retailers need to recognise that every consumer touch point has the potential to drive brand advocacy, as well as negative interactions,” he said.
No doubt social media played a role in pushing the story into the media’s attention, and with the speed in which it happens brands need to respond just as quickly, he suggested.
“Social media is definitely a part of this equation and without the proper customer service protocols in place across channels, incidents such as this can be quickly escalated. Brands need to respond with the same speed, and it is easier to improve touch point handling processes than look to fix an issue after it arises.”
If this story was prior social media, DDB’s Simpson believes it could have just been forgotten about in a community newspaper.
“Prior to social media the Milne family would have had to contact a tabloid or current affairs program and rely on a producer to deem it ‘newsworthy’. The most likely scenario is the story would have been buried deep within a community newspaper and would never have had the gravitas or power to evoke change on this scale.”
Image from Wikipedia Commons.