Underestimating Your Customers A Slippery Slope Toward Losing Loyalty

I’m a devoted Liquor Control Board of Ontario/LCBO promotional material junkie. Giddily awaiting the arrival of each season’s sophisticated Food and Drink magazine, I literally spend hours planning special occasion meals based on the suggested food and wine pairings.

When the recent LCBO flyer, “Wine and Food: go local” landed on my doorstep as an insert of the weekend newspaper, I quickly picked it up to have a look. The cover photo showed a tantalizing stir fry incorporating beef, bean sprouts, snow peas, julienned peppers, a wedge of lime and coriander leaf, placed alongside a glass of red wine. I flipped through the flyer to find the recipe on the inside back page, but the recipe didn’t match the photo. It called for green beans instead of snow peas and lemon juice instead of lime. There was no mention of bean sprouts or coriander in the ingredients list. Was the wrong photo or recipe accidentally presented? Or, was the LCBO cutting corners with a stock photo that closely approximated the recipe text? Either way, someone made an error.

Where to draw the line between staying within your communication budget and connecting with customers in a manner they’ve come to expect from your organization? I’m a big fan of the “honesty is the best policy” and “check your facts” mantras. Customers aren’t stupid; they can smell a “bait and switch” tactic a kilometer away and many do take the time to actually read promotional flyers. Mistakes matter and they can erode brand loyalty.

Ontario’s government-run liquor monopoly will no doubt retain me as a customer, because they’re the only game in town. However, my perception of the LCBO as a premium lifestyle marketer has taken a bit of a hit.

In these tough economic times, communicators should be vigilant in employing every possible tool to retain customer loyalty. Sloppy proof reading or a slashed photo budget could come back to bite an organization’s bottom line.

Sandra Upeslacis is President of IDEASPEAK Public Relations. sandra.upeslacis@sympatico.ca.