Shopper Marketing and Customer Experience Management

we believe it takes an inspiring story to make people buy

vanilla icecream at General Motors

The absurd product complaint story by a GM customer  about his car and vanilla ice-cream – “This is the second time I have written to you, and I don’t blame you for not answering me, because I sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of ice cream for dessert after dinner. Every time I buy a vanilla ice cream, when I start back from the store my car won’t start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just fine. I want you to know I’m serious about this, no matter how silly it sounds: “What is there about a car that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream, and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?”

The President of the company was understandably skeptical about the letter, but sent an engineer who arranged to meet the man just after dinnertime at the ice cream store.  The first night, they got chocolate. The car started. The second night, they got strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.

GM pontiac vanilla ice cream

Now the engineer refused to believe that this man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. So, he began to take notes: time of day, type of gas used, time to drive back and forth etc.

He then noticed that the customer took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavour, as it was kept at the front of the store. All the other flavours were kept at the back of the store, so it took longer to get them. The clue triggered a chain of thought – why wouldn’t the car start when it took less time? The solution then became obvious to the engineer, “when he returned to the car quickly, the vapour lock did not cool in time for the car to re-start”.

Here is the story of the President of GM who decided to address a customer complaint no matter how absurd it may be. Honestly any kind of customer complaint is looked at with so much skepticism that somehow it feels like the brand is not confident of the customer’s reason for buying them in the fist place.

Realize that the customer chose to buy your brand over others because they like your brand. They also decide to register a complaint because they trust you to address it. No matter how irate the customer these are the 2 things to remember – 1) they chose to buy your brand over others 2) they believe their complaint will be addressed.
It will help us trust and respect the customer. 


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