Archive for the ‘Kwik Fit horror’ Category

Lessons to learn from poor corporate social media engagement

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The thorny subject of corporate social media engagement is on the radar of most people with an interest in business – after all, the corporate marketers have the largest teams, the largest Brands, the largest budgets – but, at times it seems, the least understanding of what it truly means to market effectively on social media.

However, given what’s come before it, that’s hardly surprising.

The old-school methods of command-and-control via direct marketing routes is hardly likely to cut it online with a discerning, intelligent, savvy social audience. Unfortunately, some corporate marketers are still believing their own PR – and their Brands are paying the price.

Less than a month ago, the Huffington Post carried a story about a spectacular fail by McDonalds on Twitter. And whilst some of the big boys have played the marketing game incredibly well on social media platforms, a few – such as Kwik Fit – have also failed in a major and long-term manner: to the tune of 100 customers lost per day via one blog post alone.

 

 

 

The significant and ongoing Kwik Fit corporate marketing fail on social media began more than two years ago with this blog post, highlighting life-threatening service which was never resolved.

It was not a blog post I took lightly in writing, and had offered Kwik Fit the opportunity to resolve the situation before publishing it. They declined. It went live. The response from other aggrieved ex-Kwik Fit customers, however, has been staggering. Even ex-Kwik Fit mechanics and managers have contributed to the post.

Kwik Fit has maintained a strategy of silence.

To their detriment: the brand has been further devalued on Twitter, with the @Kwik_Fit Twitter account launching as a PR-based account, and now being forced to permanently directly tweet unhappy customers who are sharing their negative views and experiences across the Twittersphere.

The PR team at Kwik Fit managing that Twitter account must be a pretty demotivated bunch by now.

The blog post grabbed the attention of BBC Watchdog, who ran a negative story on Kwik Fit – that episode caused a public stand-down from Kwik Fit management, stating they would be spending £1.5 million to improve their customer service programme.

The story was also picked up by various motoring blogs and customer service forums. All were equally condemning and vocal.

The eBook covering the whole sorry tale also sold well – and, interestingly enough, the first person to purchase a virtual copy was a London-based marketing executive, who – after further research – apparently worked for an Agency handling Kwik Fit’s marketing at the time. An example of too little, too late, really.

Furthermore, the anti-fan page on Facebook has gathered momentum, with more than 430 people sharing, talking, discussing, and generally running down the Kwik Fit brand, as they highlight their poor experiences from various branches across the UK.

The official Kwik Fit stance of silence has been doggedly maintained. The company is now £millions in debt and trying to sell up.

What lessons can be learned from such poor corporate social media engagement? I’d suggest a few simple tips here for us all:

* Avoid the situation

Avoid it going public in the first place – ensure that the corporate brand is protected and enhanced by delivering amazing service consistently. Happy customers share their experiences, but unhappy customers generally tell more people, more often.

* Deal with it

When trouble comes, why not capitalise on it? Kwik Fit could have turned the negative blog post and concurrent ex-customer comments into valuable marketing feedback to step up to the mark and improve. Did they create raving fans? No.

* Be real on social

Too many corporate marketing teams are engaging in direct marketing, old-school and sales-based ways. We don’t respond well to it. How to engage on social media? Be real, be engaged, be attentive. That’s the simplest way to avoid social media meltdowns.



Top tips on taming trollers – or when to delete a blog comment

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When deciding on how to manage your blog, which comments to allow in as part of the ongoing debate on posts, it can get tricky at times – particularly when you have a commitment to give your readership the best discussions and most relevant inputs.

This gets even trickier when somebody attempts to troll (bad-mouth) your blog or attacks a particular blog post.

We’ve all been there – a part of having a well-read, fearless, upfront and sometimes contraversial blog, is that some will disagree with what’s said, and voice their opinions.

This is welcomed – as a well-balanced, thoughtful, well-reasoned argument which benefits the blog, gives the readership greater insight and understanding, and generates valuable online communication.

Unless your blog is the victim of a troller. A negative drain with nothing positive to add, and a huge conflict with your blog’s ethos.

I’ve been trolled before – on this blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook. I enjoy discussion, debate and dialogue as much as the next blogger – but what I absolutely won’t put up with is a troller trying to ruin an interesting, useful, and valid blog post.

I had a particularly unpleasant round of post comments around this blog post over the last three days from a troller – a cowardly, anonymous individual who used fake email addresses on each occasion and demonstrated he hadn’t actually engaged with the whole Kwik Fit issue, as clearly highlighted in the blog post itself.

Obviously, someone with an axe to grind – but no sharp blade on said axe, so to speak.

I entertained the first comment, as it provided potential to add to the Kwik Fit life-threatening debate further – even if it was poorly crafted, a bit aggressive, and slightly antagonistic. I can handle that, and the readership might have benefited too.

However, after a further round of abusive, aggressive, and highly personal (not to mention irrelevant) attempted comments from the fake- email-address-using troller, I had no choice but to delete and block the comments. They were, quite simply, offensive.

But, from every trial comes a lesson – and my top tips for handling trollers on your blog and when to delete them, go like this:

* Allow a bit of leeway, but when any boundary is stepped over, clamp down on them immediately and without hesitation.

* Remember it is your blog, and you have the right to monitor, edit and delete anything which doesn’t add value to readers.

* Do not sink to their level – leave them there and move on, maintaining your positive outlook and brilliant blogging.

So, to the individual calling himself Frederick@yahoo.co.uk – amongst many other fake email addresses, a bit of advice to you, too.

If you can be man enough to provide your real email address and actual name, and contribute something useful to the debate, you are most welcome to come on board and add some intelligent comment. As for the rest of it? Blocked.

Protect your blog, folks – it’s part of your online legacy. And that’s all about your unique, powerful, genuine and real voice.

Most importantly – protect your blog so your readers have a consistent, solid, engaging and useful space online to visit.

 



Kwik Fit lying to a national newspaper – sustainable PR policy?

Posted by Bristol Editor 1 Comment

An interesting predicament is now facing Kwik Fit, following the issuing of misleading statements – and indeed, outright lies – to a national newspaper journalist covering a piece on them for the Times Money supplement this weekend.

It raises a number of questions concerning contemporary corporate comms practices, of course, and relates to an ongoing story.

An ongoing story which I found myself creating back in October 2009, following life-threatening work carried out on my car by mechanics at the Whiteladies Road branch of Kwik Fit’s franchise operation in Bristol.

The full initial story was covered in this blog post.

In the Times Money piece, written by reporter Leah Milner and published on Saturday, Kwik Fit had made the following statements to her in their Right to Reply PR comments back:

* Mr Street had been very happy with the resolved work completed on his rear brakes.

First Kwik Fit PR lie: At no point had I stated that I was happy with the service delivered, and had made this clear to the Whiteladies Road branch manager Robert Sandow at the time. The work was life-threatening. I wasn’t happy. At all.

This led to a meeting with the Kwik Fit regional manager at the time Dave Rees, who – interestingly enough – refused my request to record our meeting for the sake of accuracy. Mr Sandow, an ex-McDonalds manager, was also rapidly moved to another Kwik Fit franchise branch in Bristol at this time, too, after signing off the life-threatening work of his mechanic. Steer clear of Kwik Fit Filton, folks.

* After resolving the problem with his brakes…

Second Kwik Fit PR lie: the issue was never resolved. That is the entire reason the blog post was published, following my attempts to resolve it privately and through the Kwik Fit complaints procedure. I had requested at my meeting with Mr Rees a few things to be resolved – including the two days’ consultancy time lost my Kwik Fit mis-management, and wasting of my time.

* Mr Street returned to the branch to buy new tyres.

Third Kwik Fit PR lie: at no point did I return to the Whiteladies Road Kwik Fit branch. Why would I, after that kind of treatment? A mechanic in the branch (who’d inspected the work previously carried out on the rear brakes, and called it a ‘deathtrap’ at the time) had recommended another Kwik Fit branch for new front tyres. He’d even contacted the branch manager to make sure I got decent service. In the spirit of objective journalistic thinking, I was happy to try another garage.

After all, as a franchise company, each branch is, in effect, a different business.

And, to be fair and balanced, at the time I was confident of at least getting two front tyres replaced competently by another branch. It was an adequate job completed here.

The fact that the Kwik Fit PR team mislead and lied about these three key facts to a national newspaper points, for me, to a far more worrying dilemma.

The fact that countless unhappy customers have posted comments on the blog and Facebook – all dealt with in Kwik Fit’s trademark strategy of silence. Their reactive PR policies are archaic, founded in a structure of denial and complicity.

The fact that they have not resolved the issues brought before them back in 2009. I received a letter from Kwik Fit HQ following the meeting with Mr Rees stating they had investigated the matter, found they were not at fault, and that it was now closed.

The fact that the multitude of other ex-Kwik Fit customers are still being mislead as their individual cases drag on.

And – from a journalistic perspective – I’d have been much more inclined to view the Kwik Fit PR responses to the Times Money positively from a third-party angle if Leah Milner had at least reported the full facts of my case, rather than omitting details concerning the front tyre replacements at a different garage.

The Kwik Fit quote was, at best, misleading. At worst, blatant lies.

I understand the process of putting together a newspaper article, the balance needed, the reasons why objectivity is needed.

What I don’t get is how key facts can be missed out, further enabling Kwik Fit to further pursue a PR policy based on lies?

My final question – who is the biggest culprit here.

Kwik Fit management, or the PR team who delivered lies to the Press?



The Ebook Kwik Fit don’t want you to read

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It’s right here – the shocking story of how Kwik Fit are losing 100 customers per day.

Due to poor online reputation management and a bungling lack of social media strategy in response to a multitude of negative customer comments shared across the Web, on review sites, forums and blogs such as this one. An incredible example here.

If you’re:

* Managing corporate reputation online

* Providing social media management

* Delivering online PR for businesses

* Part of a corporate marketing team

* Managing comments on social media platforms

* Looking for a powerful real-time case study

Then this Ebook is going to be a must-read for you. If you’re in the Kwik Fit corporate marketing team, it’s probably too late for you.



How one blog post is costing Kwik Fit 100 customers per day, Part 3

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Chapter 3: How Kwik Fit responded – a strategy of silence

One of the easiest ways to counteract a build-up of mass negative online reputation is, of course, to deal with situations as soon as they arise.

This is the most basic tenet of appropriately handling criticism online, whether it is via a blog post, Facebook comment, tweet or associated industry site: setting up Google Alerts for relevant content is an essential first step.

Monitoring and managing information and reputation online can seem like a huge task, but with the multitude of tools and automated programmes available, it can be both straightforward and enlightening.

Indeed, if a positive online reputation is being delivered, a corporate can often spot opportunities to increase a positive reputation, further connect with satisfied customers, as well as highlight best practice and proactive PR.

Kwik Fit undoubtedly have Google Alerts set up, judging from the Search terms and keywords used to examine my blog in the last nine months.

I have noticed the increasing number of senior management names, specific PR-linked terms, as well as reputation-based phrases and keywords entered during the course of 2010 across Google for Kwik Fit and its managers.

This is a clear indication that the blog is being watched, but not actioned, by the Kwik Fit senior management and corporate PR teams, as well as the hapless PR Agency which attempted to rubbish and discredit the story in the first place with regional Press.

At no point – ever – has Kwik Fit, or any representatives of Kwik Fit handling the corporate’s reputation, made any public comment or attempt to engage publicly the issues raised in the blog post and subsequent customer issues.

This means that there is a multitude of comments, unanswered complaints, and a massive, consistent, growing groundswell of negative reputation online concerning Kwik Fit management, processes, employees, procedures and delivery which remains unaddressed.

This strategy of silence might seem incomprehensible to many involved in managing reputations online, whether that’s in-house or externally via an Agency on behalf of a client.

It might seem incomprehensible to leave negative sentiment unchecked online, to allow comment after comment to build into a stream of damning evidence which will remain online for potential customers to view.

It might seem incomprehensible to continue broadcasting expensive television, newspaper and billboard advertisement Campaigns, in the face of such condemnation by customers online.

Kwik Fit, however, seem firmly ensconced in their broadcasting methods. It is part of their corporate culture to play the denial and blame game – an obsolete tactic which has long seen its day in the required transparency of social media platforms and on-demand forums.

There is, quite simply, no escape online. A strategy of silence is not an option.

Particularly when the tidal wave of negative sentiment continues to grow and swell across a number of platforms.

This increased even further when BBC Watchdog screened an investigation into Kwik Fit in September 2010. It became clear that a rolling stone of complaint gathers much moss – as the next Chapter illustrates.



How one blog post is costing Kwik Fit 100 customers per day, Part 2

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Chapter 2: What happened – the implications online for Kwik Fit

One of the most noticeable casualties for a company in terms of online reputation and negative social media comments, is that of the implications online for that corporate’s Brand image, perception, and future engagement.

Kwik Fit has suffered a massive negative hit in relation to the blog post – and continues to suffer, to the tune of 100 customers per day. This, however, is just part of their problem online. The blog was being picked up and commented on by other bloggers.

These additional blogs also figured highly on Google searches and included key negative terms within the content. This was, and remains, dangerous Google Juice against Kwik Fit’s online reputation.

Google indexes Search results based on keywords and numbers of times those keywords are entered under Searches. These keywords stay online, and if the comments online are negative, a corporate’s reputation also is.

By placing relevant keywords into content, a corporate can gain a hugely positive or negative reputation via Google and other search engines, based on the keywords found by visitors across the Web.

These blog posts, and the amount of linked negative attention around them, did little to enhance Kwik Fit’s reputation online.

This, combined with other review sites holding negative comments and forum insights from ex-Kwik Fit customers, and the implications online for delivering poor service, unresolved customer issues and dangerous mechanical work are all stacked to provide a virtually impossible online reputation to attempt to salvage – even for the very best corporate in-house PR team or Agency.

By the time a corporate’s online reputation gets to this stage – with an abundance of negative comments across various Google search terms – and it’s pretty much game over for the management of any positive reputation control online. It all then becomes a case of crisis mis-management, or complete ignorance and silence – as in the case of Kwik Fit.

With each new blog comment comes a response, an examination by the existing audience and an opportunity for new audience members online to notice, engage and leave comment. The negative reputation spirals onwards and outwards in the absence of any proactive, rapid counter-discussion.

In the example of the Kwik Fit blog post, the corporate’s lack of any direct or public engagement online has reinforced the severity of the issues raised and demonstrated a lack of awareness of the importance of online reputation.

With the plethora of online forums, social media platforms and blogosphere opportunities, maintaining and managing a positive online reputation is vital.

Can your Brand afford a strategy of silence online? It appears that Kwik Fit can, as the next Chapter explores.



How one blog post is costing Kwik Fit 100 customers per day, Part 1

Posted by Bristol Editor 34 Comments

I’m pre-publishing parts of my latest Ebook, entitled ‘How one blog post is costing Kwik Fit 100 customers per day’ across the blog here, so readers can get an early peek at it and benefit from the lessons we’ve discovered about social media engagement and online reputation management – courtesy of an ongoing strategy of silence from the appalling corporate Kwik Fit.

These three blog posts will contain the basic text, but not the full graphic and diagrams in the Ebook. However, the content from the Chapters highlighted on the blog should still prove useful. There are three pre-publication blogs posts – here’s the first.

Chapter One: How a blog post came to cost Kwik Fit 100 customers per day

I first came into contact with Kwik Fit as a customer on 03 October 2009, when visiting the Whiteladies Road, Bristol branch. The emergency brake lights were flashing on my Mini Cooper S, combined with a squealing, grinding noise on the rear brakes. Urgent mechanical attention was obviously needed.

The rear brake pad and disc repairs cost just shy of £250. The branch manager also attempted to sell me two front tyres at £325, even though the tyres were well within the legal limit, as well as a new caliper, which would be in the region of up to an additional £350.

I left the branch with the brake warning light still on, and the brakes sticky.

The branch manager, Robert Sandow, (an ex-McDonalds manager who was promptly moved to another Bristol Kwik Fit branch when his errors, lies and mis-selling became evident to higher Management after my first complaint) informed me this was perfectly normal, and that the warning light on the Mini Cooper S’s electronic system would “automatically reset after 50 miles” whilst the new pads “would also bed in” which I later found out was complete nonsense. I believed him.

The brake warning light stayed on, I discovered a few days later when I had the work inspected independently, because one of the rear brake pads had been fitted without a pad. Metal was hitting metal. The car was a death trap.

After further complications, mis-selling, lies and excuses in-branch from Mr Sandow, I had the independent examination completed and made a formal complaint. I was given a face-to-face meeting with Kwik Fit regional manager Dave Rees in Bristol.

He was accusatory, a poor listener, and refused to give his consent for me to record the meeting on my Dictaphone. I was not impressed.

Following this perfunctory meeting, I chased for feedback – after Mr Rees did not come back to me on the agreed deadline with feedback and a proposal of solutions to my poor treatment and life-threatening service from Kwik Fit.

What I did get was a letter from Kwik Fit Head Office stating that after a thorough internal investigation, they found no evidence of wrong-doing, that compensation of any kind would not be offered, and that the matter was closed.

I was, understandably, not impressed with Kwik Fit’s idea of customer satisfaction.

I published the complaint email sent to Kwik Fit’s Managing Director in full on my blog, to highlight my case and demonstrate that the matter was far from closed. This blog post continues to attract 100 hits per day. You can read it here.

Obviously, to receive such a dismissive response from Kwik Fit did not sit well, and highlighting the issues publicly on my blog seemed the only option.

After highlighting the story to regional Press, I learnt from an inside source on one newspaper that Kwik Fit’s corporate PR team had attempted to discredit the issues and story, rather than genuinely engage with them and resolve it.

I also learnt that Kwik Fit management had put a firm lockdown on the case, with an internal investigation by senior management leading to radical measures being taken, such as mechanics being told to watch out for ‘difficult’ customers in-branch. Again, no actual resolution of life-threatening treatment.

This was the start of Kwik Fit’s strategy of silence – more to follow on that in Chapter Three.

Around this time, I also contacted Guardian Money and BBC Watchdog, with spectacular results in the Watchdog example. Again, more to follow on this.

I promoted the ‘How Kwik Fit risked my life to make a sale’ blogpost across social media platforms, including setting up an anti-fan page on Facebook entitled ‘Kwik Fit – the worst corporate reputation in the UK?’ which provided an excellent sounding board for other for other disgruntled ex-Kwik Fit customers. Comments which were all being retained on Google searches.

By now, the blog post itself was also attracting attention and more comments, forming a damning thread of evidence concerning Kwik Fit’s treatment of unhappy customers across the UK.

Internal customers, including ex-Kwik Fit managers and mechanics, were now coming to the blog to post their comments and experiences of working within the corporate. Evidence was stacking up across a number of online platforms.

Evidence which had massive implications online for Kwik Fit, as the next chapter highlights – read this on Wednesday.



Kwik Fit response to Watchdog – corporate denial in action

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Kwik Fit risked our lives, ripped us off, and lied to us.

The scene was set – by this.

The Watchdog show rocked – see here.

The Kwik Fit PR response – corporate denial in full.

The unhappy customers are getting more vocal here here here here here and here.

What next for the corporate PR team at Kwik Fit?



Kwik Fit – for whom the bell tolls, via BBC Watchdog

Posted by Bristol Editor 118 Comments

Well, after much editorial input and a huge number of customer complaints here (all unanswered by Kwik Fit management) the bell is tolling for this crafty corporate.

A corporate which delivers life-threatening service, shocking customer treatment, and appalling employee practices, too, judging by some of the feedback on the anti-fan Facebook page established on the back of my original blog. Now, payback time.

BBC Watchdog will be highlighting Kwik Fit in their flagship, primetime programme this Thursday evening. To millions.

No more running, no more evasion, no more silence – the bell is tolling for you, Ian Fraser, Simon Benson, Dave Rees and associates. Your corporate PR team can’t save you now. Karmic Law in action. Bring it on.

Tweet your pre-programme thoughts and inputs to BBC Watchdog’s Twitter feed. Let’s ensure the show hits Kwik Fit hard.



Be careful what you say about bloggers

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And here’s why.

Substantial damages paid by national newspaper, after online story version containing libelous statement went live. Proof that bloggers can – and will – fight for their reputations to be protected. I think it’s a stunning example, but won’t be the last.

There is a perception that if comments are posted online, rather than in print, they don’t hold the same weight or force – not so, of course, as this case has clearly highlighted. Content is powerful, irrespective of the medium on which it is conveyed.

Maybe that’s why Kwik Fit have maintained complete silence over this corporate reputation debacle throughout the whole of 2010.



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