The bonds that bind us and how brands win us over

Ordinarily I wouldn’t write about this sort of thing as it’s so close to home but it’s such a wonderful example of how a brand can use service to its advantage.

At Christmas I went home to Australia to visit my family. At LAX, my daughter was wandering through a store while waiting to board our flight. Unfortunately when it came time to board she accidentally left her carry-on luggage behind. It was only at the gate that we realized this. Too late. It had disappeared.

Ordinarily this would be one of life’s little lesson in responsibility and no cause for concern. But inside that bag was something very special – my youngest daughter’s favorite super soft toy that she sleeps with at night. Now this was a different matter.

My eldest daughter felt bad about the loss of the toy and even bought her younger sister a sorry gift (bless!) My youngest daughter did a very good job at managing her sadness at having lost Snugglewuggle. People felt sad all round.

When we arrived in Australia we purchased what we hoped would be an acceptable replacement for Snugglewuggle, but as my daughter confided to me, it only made her think of who she lost. I tried calling the airport and got a long recorded message. I called the store in question for several days to no avail. It was time to move on.

We returned to LA having given up any hope that Snugglewuggle would ever return. We scoured several CVS pharmacies and even contacted the distributor where a wonderful woman named Laurie kindly searched the factory inventory with her reps for the missing bear. (If you’re young and single this probably sounds insane but went you’re a parent with a sleepless child it suddenly becomes completely rational!)

It was at this point we finally gave up hope. Then, miraculously, only a week ago, we received a phone call from my daughter’s school. Apparently a Delta Airlines lost luggage employee in Detroit had received the missing bag through lost property, opened it up and found my daughter’s schoolbooks that she was taking to read on the plane. The employee located the school in California, explained the story, the school called us, we went to LAX andlo and behold, we were reunited with Snuggles.

Not only do I have huge respect for the quality of customer service provided by Delta, but it also made me mindful of how the powerful emotional bonds that bind us are transmitted through products and then associated with brands.

That teddy bear was incredibly meaningful to my daughter. As such, its disappearance was incredibly meaningful to me. As a result, the effort by that Delta Airlines employee has transformed my opinion of that brand forever.

These emotional bonds pass invisibly though products especially across social media. The easiest way to win over a unhappy customer tweeting negative things about your brand is to reach out to them, take responsibility and ask how you can make things right (a lesson Wall Street and Toyota are struggling with). Once you do an unhappy customer can become your greatest champion simply because of how you handled the situation.

So thank you, Delta, for returning Snugglewuggle and reminding me what service is. My youngest daughter is really happy as am I. And don’t let that crooked smile fool you. Snugglewuggle is happy is to be home too.

If you’ve had an experience where you opinion of a brand was transformed, let me know.

BTW: I did ask my daughter if it was ok to share this story. Snuggles didn’t object either.

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