Reputation Management: Teaching Your Customers Why They Can't Trust You (or why the New York Times are liars)

Customers are an interesting bunch. You just never know what's going to make them think a certain way about your product or service.

Take the New York Times, for example.

Like every other media outlet, they've had their problems with content in the past, but it's pretty safe to say that they're one of the most trusted newspaper/media outlets. Possibly in the world.

But if their business practices are not as robust as their reporting, why should we trust them?

The short answer is: We shouldn't.

Why?

Because they, themselves, have given us reason not to.

Here's the little story that's the basis of this big lesson in reputation management.

At the beginning of this month, I decided to cancel my online subscription to nytimes.com.

They had taken my payment on a Saturday. I called two days later - first thing Monday morning - explained that I hadn't known that their offices were open on weekends until hearing their greeting message on that particular call, but hoped that they would give me the refund anyway.

I was assured by their Customer Service Representative that a refund would be paid to me. I was also told that it takes 10 to 15 business days for the payment to arrive.

Frankly, while I thought that was a horrible refund policy for customer service purposes, I didn't give it any further thought.

Very quickly I received an email confirming that my subscription was cancelled but never received any confirmation of a refund. Okay, I thought. That will come separately.

But it didn't. So I called again later that same week, spoke with a different Customer Service Representative, had them look at my account file, confirm that the subscription was cancelled and that a refund was on its way.

The very polite Representative told me that, yes, everything was in progress, the payment would be made and that I shouldn't expect an email regarding the refund as they wouldn't be generating one. The payment would simply land.

But it didn't. So, today, I called again (because it had become a hobby) - but this time was told that I wouldn't be given a refund and that, in fact, it was never requested nor processed.

Which makes the New York Times liars.

The thing that executives and managers rarely put together - even though any sentient, thinking beings would - is that what happens in one part of an organization directly impacts the way the rest of the organization is viewed.

We're talking about $15. That's it. Fifteen dollars.

What's important about that number is that, clearly, it's not the amount of money that makes the difference. It's that TWO of their representatives told me the same lie - and that makes lying their policy.

Which makes the New York Times liars.

I've been assured that I'll be contacted by a Supervisor to further discuss my "issue" (their word).

We'll see. They're probably lying about that, too.