Converting Customer Complaints Into Opportunities: Case Study – Toms

Ryan Nahas

About 6 months ago, I purchased a pair of canvas brogue shoes from TOMS. When they were delivered, I put them on and was immediately impressed. I wore them everyday, and I became an unofficial spokesperson for the brand, talking about them non-stop to my friends entering the workforce who would usually classify TOMS as footwear for the beach, or a music festival.

Unfortunately, a few months later, the stitching at one of the seams started to come undone. It definitely didn’t prevent me from wearing and enjoying my shoes, but it was a cause for a little caution and concern. Two weeks later, the problem was slowly getting worse, and the shoes becoming virtually un-wearable. I was upset! I didn’t have the money to drop $100 or more on a new pair. I decided to take a picture of my shoes and post to the TOMS Facebook page, hoping to encourage some action, but mostly to vent my frustration and expose a defective product.

Here are a few pictures of my shoes:

customer complaints

customer complaints

I told them I’d only had them for a few months, and I couldn’t believe a company could produce such a low quality product. At this point, I was committed to never purchasing TOMS again, and making sure as many people knew about my experience as possible.

Within minutes, however, a moderator on the TOMS Facebook page replied to my message apologizing for my bad experience, and encouraging me to email customer support with proof of purchase and pictures of the damaged product. Wow. That was fast.

So I sent an email, included the pics, the proof of purchase, and a description of the problem. Again, within minutes, I received a response saying that my request had been approved, my account had been credited with the amount of the purchase price, and I was free to choose any pair of shoes from their current line as a replacement. They were even going to pay the shipping, and let me keep my old shoes!

Obviously, I was impressed. TOMS had repositioned themselves in my mind from a product that I would probably never purchase again, into a brand that stood behind their products and valued their customers, likely turning me into a repeat customer for life.

Although this sounds like a costly process for TOMS, consider the loss of future business had they 1) not replied to my message on Facebook and let others piggyback on my comment with similar negative experiences, or 2) not stood behind their product and offered no replacement.

I love my new Brogue shoes, and to be honest, I’ll probably take even better care of this pair than the last knowing that the seam coming undone might be an issue I face down the line. I’m okay with this, however, knowing that if something were to happen going forward, I’d be protected.

The message I’m trying to convey is one we continually try to make our clients understand. Your customers are your best spokespeople, referrers, brand advocates, and marketers. Love them, and they will love you back. In the social and digital age, where posts are permanent, and available for public viewing, this has never been truer. Any questions regarding how to deal with customer complaints online? Feel free to contact us.

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