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The Crisis Intelligence Blog

Rona’s HUGE Customer Care Fail and Lessons for Smarter Brands

08 May

ronaAs you know, my line of work calls for me to help a lot of brand under attack or facing crises online. As you also know, I have a clear mission through this blog to help brands protect and prepare themselves from the many risks that threaten their company’s reputation. For that reason, it is a rare day when you will find me calling out a brand by name, for a negative situation that has happened to me, personally. However, this past weekend I went through an ordeal that has completely shocked and appalled me, and I’m going to do something that I very seldom do here on this blog: tell you about the horrible experience I had AND call out the brand. 

Rona’s HUGE Customer Care Fail

It’s gone from winter to summer, literally over night, here in Montreal. We seem to have skipped spring and gone straight to shorts and tank-top weather. So, as many other Montrealers, this past Sunday I found myself working in my backyard and garden, when I decided to pay a visit to one of my favorite home repair / hardware stores for some nice new outdoor purchases. The store is called Rona. If you aren’t familiar with the Rona franchise, Rona is a very huge home-hardware store here in Canada.

So, there I was, walking with my husband through the first isle when we saw a little patio table that we liked. I pulled it from the shelf, crouched down to examine it, when suddenly I was hit by what felt like a ton of bricks, straight on my head. It appears that when I took the table from the shelf, it sent a ripple effect and an 8 foot-long metal pole, which was insecurely placed far above me, came crashing down… right on top of my head.

It took me a few minutes to pick myself up, but once up and quite angry and in pain, I immediately grabbed the metal pole and called upon the store manager. When he came to see me, I asked him to hold the metal pole so that he could feel its weight. I then proceeded to tell him how it came crashing down on my head from who knows how high up the 20 foot wall.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but when a customer approaches you with pain in her eyes, rubbing her head and explains to you how an object that could have easily killed a child came crashing down on her head, one would expect the instinctive reaction to be something along the lines of “oh my gosh! Are you alright? I’m so sorry that this has happened…” before they continue to attempt to make it up to you and fill out an injury report. One would think that this would be a natural reaction. However, it was no where near the reaction I received. Instead of an apology, instead of an inquiry to my well-being, my complaint was met with a long stream of sentences on how these items are usually more secure and shouldn’t fall… as if I didn’t already know that this item should not have fallen on my head!

Upset and in pain, I left the store.

After having time to reflect and feel the full force of my minor concussion, I decided to write an email to Rona’s head office, as well as publicly to their Facebook fan page. Unfortunately, their response pattern seems to run consistent across the board, and their Facebook fan page seems to run unmonitored by robots, because, 48 hours later (at the time of this writing) I have yet to receive any email or phone call from Rona’s head office. I did however receive a very generic response to my Facebook comment – 48 hours after I published it to their wall. Total and utter FAIL, Rona!

Lessons and take-aways for smarter brands than Rona seems to be

This is a serious issue that should not have happened. However, accidents are sometimes out of our control and do happen. (I’m just incredibly thankful that it was not a child standing in my place at the time that the pole came crashing down.) But an accident such as this is highly foreseeable, especially for a mega home hardware store, and the reaction – or rather the non-reaction – that I received is unjustifiable. From the store manager to the head office to their Facebook fan page, under no circumstances should an injured customer have been disregarded and gone unanswered. It is unacceptable and a total and utter fail on Rona’s part.

The minimum response that I should have experienced

As a foreseeable risk, procedures (and might I add compassion) should have been instinctively met in-store. (Don’t forget that had I been met with compassion and sincerity in the store, my following two courses of action would not have happened and this would be a much different blog post, if I would have written one at all.)

Emails should be read and taken seriously by the head office and I should have received some sort of reply, by the next morning at the latest.

Facebook and all other social channels should be monitored regularly and consistently and questions and comments should be answered and escalated to higher personnel when necessary. In no circumstances such as this should a mechanical and generic reply be made. It’s literally adding insult to injury.

What if this happened in your place of business?

If an accident such as this were to happen in your store or office, would your management and front-line employees know how to correctly respond and react? If you aren’t sure, test them. Because had this happened to someone else, Rona could have been facing very undesirable online attacks and worse, legal pursuits. Your customers and clients’ well-being and safety is of the utmost importance. Have you educated and empowered every level of your team to a) realize this, and b) know the correct protocol and procedures to dealing with this type of potential crisis situation?

If you haven’t, it’s time to get on it!

Update May 16 2013:

After many communications with different members of the Rona team, I have even more lessons and take-aways of what NOT to do in these situations. Rona continued to fail with their communications and customer care – and the fails came from all the way up the executive ladder. If you’d like to read the update on this situation I experienced – and learn some valuable lessons for your own brand and team (not that you need them, as a reader of this blog, I know you wouldn’t make these futile mistakes!), click here.

12 Responses to “Rona’s HUGE Customer Care Fail and Lessons for Smarter Brands”

  1. KC Saling May 8, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    I'm so sorry, Melissa – I hope you're okay! As for the business, why do businesses keep thinking it's okay to respond with generic form letters/messages? No one in their right mind is going to mistake an autobot reply or copy/paste messaging for real empathy.

    And the time!! It's one thing to get an automated response that your email/message has been received and that a representative will get with you shortly, but getting an automated message after 48 hours is totally unacceptable. Total fail.

    • Melissa Agnes May 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

      Hi Kristin,

      Thanks for your concern, I'm doing much better today :)

      I can not agree with you more! Especially with such a foreseeable risk and serious issue, I'm appalled that such a big organization is so unresponsive, inhuman and so out of touch with what's going on. Total and utter #Fail!

  2. MC May 8, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Hey Melissa – sorry about your conked head. I am interested in seeing how Rona follows up with you and will be watching for your updates.

    • Melissa Agnes May 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

      Thanks kindly, MC. I'm interested to see if I get any type of response as well. Very doubtful though, with the way this company has proven to be so out of touch. Will keep you posted ;)

    • Melissa Agnes May 16, 2013 at 9:52 am #

      Hi MC,

      I just wanted to let you know that I followed this post with a new update on the situation I experienced – and even more lessons of what NOT to do, in case you're interested. Here's the link: /update-on-ronas-huge-customer

      Have a wonderful day!

  3. Brett May 8, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Wow, really sorry to hear about your experience at Rona… hope you're feeling better Melissa.

    Sadly, Rona's response doesn't surprise me very much. My wife had a fall in a chain restaurant's bathroom several years ago while trying to change our infant son. There was a great deal of water on the floor and she slipped. Fortunately, no injuries… but the response of the staff really only served to inflame the issue. My wife was feeling a little embarrassed and I regret not pursuing it more vigorously, but it was clear that staff had a very rigid process to follow which seemed to be more about limiting liability than looking after their customers.

    I hope you'll keep us updated on the response you receive from Rona (if any).

    All the best,

    • Melissa Agnes May 8, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

      Hi Brett,

      I'm sorry to hear you and your wife had a similar and uncaring experience with a brand. It's hard for me to see such fails when I work so hard at educated organizations every day with my work and this blog.

      I'll definitely keep you posted, but my expectations are definitely low at this point.


    • Melissa Agnes May 16, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      Hi Brett,

      As promised, here's an update on the continued failed communications by Rona, in case you're still interested: /update-on-ronas-huge-customer

      Have a great day,

  4. Tom May 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    I am just a regular everyday full time employee at Rona. I am not a manager or supervisor. I do, however, have regular instore training on how to handle any instore accident, whether customer or employee. Every day at store opening a department supervisor or manager tours their departments for a safety inspection, looking for over head and unsecured items, as well as trip hazards etc.. This incedent is not systemic throughout Rona. Myself and my fellow employees take the safety of our customers and other employess seriously. We don't want anyone who enters our stores to be at risk. I hope you have recovered and it is my hope that accidents like this dont happen again.

    • Melissa Agnes May 21, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      Thank you, Tom. That was a very sweet and sincere message you've left me and I very much appreciate it. I understand how accidents can happen. It's how they are handled and cared for once they have occurred that counts. Had your fellow colleagues taken the time to be as sincere as you have just been, these blog posts would not exist.

      It is my hope as well that such an incident does not reoccur.

      Thanks again,

  5. tim June 7, 2014 at 2:21 am #

    im really appalled to hear what happened to u, and in not way does that represent rona, this was a case of just a horrible person who does not deserve to have his position, i work at rona and in no way would a person be treated this way

    • Melissa Agnes June 7, 2014 at 9:57 am #

      I appreciate your concern and kind words, Tim. :)

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