Last Monday, I found myself in unseasonably warm Paris (I know, queue the violins, poor me) indulging in a leisurely long lunch with a dear friend (radical on all fronts as those who know me, know very well that I rarely step away from my desk at lunch, a tragically horrid work habit hangover from my attorney-career years). BUT the point of this story is not that I finally stopped for lunch (duck confit in case you were wondering) or met IRL with a dear pal.
It is this –
The friend shared with me that she had picked up a book I had STRONGLY recommended. It’s a book I refer to frequently – not just for the visual sensory delight of glossy images on high quality (= expensive) paper, but for the content which has been an invaluable guide as I proactively manage my health and general well-being. Anyway, the copy my friend received was well, a bit crap (i.e. black + white versus color photography, poor quality paper (aka cheap), sloppy binding – the list goes on). So she jumped over to Amazon and wrote a rather scathing (and well deserved) book review.
Guess what the publisher did….
Defended the book’s quality (“it is printed in India” – insert head scratch here) then offered to refund her purchase IF and ONLY IF she took down her negative review.
WTW! Was my reaction! Readers of this publisher’s books in the U.S. get served up one (high, expensive) standard and those in France get another standard (shoddy, still expensive)? As an author I have some inkling that the publishing industry is being “disrupted” and under intense eyes-on-the-bottom-line pressure — but if this is how a particular publisher is reacting to those industry pressures, well, they deserve an F book review and then some.
Reputation failure. Brand failure. Customer service failure.
IMHO the publisher should have said “thank you”, owned up to the sloppiness and used the review as an opportunity to step up to a consistent (global) standard of brand quality. The power of networking (yes, writing a book review is networking folks) is an act of generosity – sharing information that could be helpful to someone else – as in other readers (who may, like me and my pal, fork out more than a few bucks for a hardcover book) and the creator aka publisher (who appears to be completely in quality control denial and reputation oblivion).
“But Kelly, it’s only a book” you’re thinking … yes, and if your company is casually flicking under the rug one sloppy outcome, I immediately rush to wonder what else are you overlooking or disregarding in your day-to-day business operations? Keeping up with the profits at what cost – quality, integrity, loyalty, creativity? If you’re in an industry that is being squeezed by technology, you push back by stepping up with a higher HUMAN standard (in this case, the extremely high-touch memorable HUMAN experience that we – consumers – are seeking from physical goods, such as books).
Build your business with a head on quality attack not a shrugging retreat from it.
Frankly, I can’t wait to get Tom Peter’s reaction to this doozy (yes, go read his book The Excellence Dividend or (no, actually AND not just or) listen to my guest host interview with Tom on the Business Builders Show with Marty Wolff). Flexing those oh so essential human aka “soft skills”. Listening intently to your customers, employees and co-workers. Relentlessly investing in learning then stepping up daily to apply that learning. These are the ways to rapidly transform a business under constant threat.
Ending this week on a completely unrelated “This Is” note: girls + leadership. If you didn’t see or read the special insert “This Is 18” in The New York Times on Thursday, October 18 – I strongly suggest getting your hands on it.
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