Does Your Marketing – and Branding – Suck?

We hear a lot about marketing, branding, blah, blah, blah. As the economy continues to toughen up – small businesses will have to work even harder to attract and retain clients.

Branding is more than just slapping a pretty logo on your product or brochures — then sitting back waiting for customers to beat down your door. Branding is about EVERYTHING you do.

A year ago, as my mother’s health continued to decline, I attended a “senior fair” sponsored by a law office specializing in estate planning. Several vendors had tables and there were a variety of speakers on a wide range of subjects. One of the speakers was from a company offering home health care services at my mother’s senior apartment building. The speaker made some interesting comments, and after she left the podium, I asked if she would be available for questions after the next speaker finished. “Yes, we have a table.”

Another 30 or 45 minutes passed before the other speaker finished, then I went searching for her table and asked the organizers to help me locate her. I guess the opportunity to finish work early on a Friday afternoon was just too big a temptation as she had closed up shop before the event had concluded.

Fast forward to the fall. Since her company was the most highly recommended of the two company’s located at my mom’s apartment building, we had contracted with them to provided morning and evening assistance with dressing and medicine administration.

My mother had a stroke in September, moved to one nursing home and then another in October. Cash flow was a bit of a problem, but I did send a small payment in  October and the balance due in November. The company did not send any statements, make a phone call, etc. –the payments were sent because we knew the money was owed.

Yesterday I received a second copy of the September invoice — not a statement. Attached was a sticky note with a handwritten message that the company had received payments, but we still owed money. The last sentence read “My accountant advised me this would be the last statement sent for this invoice before going to Collections.” The note was not signed.

The  invoice was the type that comes right out of Word, so it has a cookie cutter look to it. That’s fine for a small business. But nobody bothered to make the effort to look professional and turn it into a statement showing the monies received — they just stuck a blue sticky note on it.

Here is my response to the company:

I have received an invoice for  my mother.  There is no email on the invoice, so I am using this one.

Your company is looking for an additional $401.

As you are well aware, Mrs. Mom did not receive services for the full month of September.

According to my records,  your company has been paid  in full for August (including the increase in package) and for all of the days she lived at the apartment building in September up to and including the day of her departure.

The checks sent in October and November were sent not in response to any invoice — but because we knew we had received services and wanted to pay my mother’s account in full for all services ordered and received.Your current invoice clearly shows it was your policy prior to November 1, 2008, for clients to receive refunds when they did not receive services.

FYI – while she was there, some of the services we contracted  for were not performed. For example, I posted a reminder on the bathroom mirror and complained to your staff several times that I had frequently found nasty dirty denture water still sitting in her denture cup at the end of the day — even though all I requested was that it be dumped and rinsed out for just a second or so every morning. Not only that, I counted the denture tablets and they were not being used — no surprise since the same nasty water was still there. Made me wonder if they removed her dentures at all.

Also, there were many nites when I dressed Mom — with no expectation that there would be a refund — although your staff indicated there would be. We did not ask or expect one.

Generally, your employees were very nice and caring.

Instead of chasing ambulances to the hospital seeking additional income for new services — I would suggest you contact your client’s families for feedback while the person is still at the apartment to see if all services are being performed adequately.

In my opinion, the time to conduct your company’s marketing (such as customer satisfaction calls) is when your client is living at the apartment –not when you see an opportunity to make more money when a crisis has occurred. Your visits to see my mom at the hospital came across to me as a sales pitch and it really felt quite inappropriate.

Tell that to your accountant.

(editor’s note – I have removed proper names to protect my mother’s privacy.)

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Does Your Marketing – and Branding – Suck?”

  1. Theresa

    So sad you have to go through this kind of crap. I just received a bill for services performed in mid-2007 and expect payment in 10 days. I wrote back and said if you wanted payment in 10 days you should have sent me a bill within 10 days. Don’t expect payment immediately because it took your company over a year to send the statement. Haven’t heard from them either.

  2. intuitivelyobvious

    I think companies are scrambling to make up for the bad economy. But that’s no reason to charge for services we did not receive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s