Insulting Customers Is Not a Strategy

February 27 [Wed], 2013, 5:29
Seems obvious, right?

Insulting Customers Is Not a StrategyInsult your customers and you probably wont be in business for long. (Unless its your shtick, like atin Chicago.) Most of us, however, cant really get away with it.

Recently thebetweenandgot ugly. TurboTax came out swinging this tax season, withthat poked fun at how many H&R Block tax preparers were seasonal workers. A plumber mentioned to a homeowner how he had done his taxes at the tax store. A moonlighting retail salesperson did the same. The ads generated a lot of buzz for both companies, along with an unsuccessful lawsuit by H&R Block, but they also highlighted some deep-seated classist viewpoints our society still has.

Taxes are one of those things that are universal. Two things are certain, right? Death and taxes. It doesnt matter if you are a plumber or a teacher or Mark Zuckerberg you will have to prepare your taxes this year.

H&R Block did not waste time or mince words. A statement from CEO Bill Cobb was a direct response to these ads. Not only did he stand up for his tax professionals in no uncertain terms, which he did, but he stood up for his customers who might be retail workers or plumbers.

At H&R Block, we believe in our people. And you can meet some of these exceptional people for yourselves at #IAMHRBLOCK on Twitter.

And then the zinger at the end that spoke loud and clear about how they felt about their customers.

P. S. And for all the plumbers, retail sales clerks and other hardworking Americans, please know we would be honored to serve you.

While the Twitter hashtag has had somewhat of a backlash as H&R Block customers used it to report their grievances, the way this CEO stood up immediately for his people and his customers is a great example for any leader.

Just as execs can sometimes be too far away to understand the reality of their customers daily lives, so can ad agencies. These TurboTax ads didnt serve their customers. They did poke fun at professions that are just as respectable as any other.

Showing your customers love means understanding who they are. Millions of Americans not only have occupations such as these, but they also hold down two jobs. Making fun of them is just showing how out of touch you are.

This feud between the tax giants is far from over, but its a great lesson in both what not to do and how to respond.

Photo credit: t vialicense

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