When a brand buys another brand, in this instance out of administration, communication has to be on point.
There has to be a strategy in place, not just for moving on with the business, but for all the customers who have been loyal to the old brand. In this case, Sports Direct should be very mindful of the history and long-term relationships House of Fraser built with its customers.
Reports started last week of customers no longer being able to use gift cards and now, from what I can see, the website has been taken down and the message it leaves, is a very poor excuse and actually, not the truth.
“We’re currently working hard to make some improvements to the website. Are you?
Don’t worry, we will be back up and running as soon as possible. Will you?
While we’re otherwise occupied, check out our social channels below to see what we’ve been up to.” Mmmm, saying a different message
I mean, come on. “Don’t worry, we will be back up and running as soon as possible”??!
There are numerous issues on all channels.
A post today on BBC website said that Frasers has now cancelled all online orders. It also outlines someone who has received a bit of an order for a suit, but not the rest, so the part of the suit received, is now useless. Someone who ordered £380 of items on their gift card, which was a wedding gift of £500, won’t be receiving the order and cannot use the £180 left on the card… and the story goes on.
Customers haven’t received any email communication prior to this to advise them what’s going on with their order, or the fact they bought a gift card and it can’t be used. They’ll now just receive emails to say their order has been cancelled and they will receive a refund.
If like me, you order something and count on it being delivered when you requested it to be delivered, it’s going to leave people with limited last minute options for holidays, gifts, house renovations and more.
The phones are going to an automated answer message according to the BBC article and the Tweet on Wednesday said:
We are currently experiencing an increased number of customer service enquiries. To help us prioritise and manage these enquiries, we ask that all customers contact us by emailing email@example.com. Thank you for your ongoing patience at this time.
— House of Fraser (@houseoffraser) August 15, 2018
A tweet yesterday, said:
Due to delays with delivering online orders, we have taken the decision to cancel and refund all orders that have not already been sent to customers. All customers affected will receive an email in the next couple of days. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused.
— House of Fraser (@houseoffraser) August 16, 2018
So, how could House of Fraser’s new owners get things right, rather than make customers angry and who’ll likely never shop there again? A similar post was added to Facebook.
#Develop a strategy
Once Sports Direct knew of the acquisition, it should have immediately gathered the PR team and agreed on a strategy which would a) tell customers what was happening b) apologise c) have communication channels open and ready for a vast amount of complaints and queries d) and most importantly, protect reputation by trying to salvage relationships.
#Communicate with empathy
The message on the website is worse than terrible. It doesn’t outline the problem, it doesn’t say what’s happening and it doesn’t apologise for the disruption and letting people down.
There’s no personal statement from management or the new owner, there’s nothing for the customer to believe that House of Fraser is genuinely sorry AND is in the right hands of a new boss.
#Keep communication going on all the channels if there is something to say
There’s no point in communicating if there is nothing to say, but rather than deal with the issue, House of Fraser is now in an even worse position and crisis communication should be kicking in. Although, it doesn’t appear to be.
#Be ready to face the music
Lesson 1 in crisis communication is that you have to admit early on and you have to be ready to take the flack and deal with it professionally.
#Loss of trust by suppliers
Not only have suppliers lost out on millions and that’s one reason the deliveries are such a mess, because the logistics company is owed £30 million, but brands such as Jigsaw has left 20 stores, it’s believed Karen Millen has followed suit, and it’s likely others who are owned money, such as Armani who is owed £1.6 million and All Saints, lost £1.8 million, will not be far behind.
So, losing customers, losing suppliers and of course the logistics company, will result in a tarnished House of Fraser brand. Where does the Sports Direct boss go from here?? Answers on a postcard, but not addressed to a House of Fraser store…
Maybe the liquidators should have taken the £1 offer in the first instance…
I’m sure more will unfold and I’ll be sure to blog more, when I can. Please do share this post with people who may be interested and even like to discuss it.