Lies My Brand Told Me

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I got my iPhone 6. How about you?

To be honest, I was surprised that I got it. I’ve been a customer of my mobile wireless carrier since cellular service was first introduced. That means that I am both old and loyal. The week before last, I went on to their website to reserve an iPhone 6 and was told that I am number 1300 (or something) in the cue, and that they will notify me when the device is ready to be picked up in-store. Imagine my surprise to have received that call on the day that the device launched. I was so taken aback (meaning, I had my day planned out) that I waited until the next day to go and retrieve my sweet precious.

That’s when things got funky.

I felt terrible for the sales associates there, because the phones were all there and ready to be picked up, but the online system to initiate the phones was down. Amazingly, the sales associates were calm, cool and collected as more and more frustrated customers came into the store – and were able to see and touch their newly launched iPhone 6’s – but could not get them activated. Instead of letting the ill feelings fester, I made the executive decision to come back in a few days, once things had settled down. My sales rep told me to call the company’s customer service line later in the day, to see if the system is working. Once the system was up, I was invited to come back any time. Instead of heading home, I decided to grab some lunch and do some reading nearby. A few hours later, I went back to the store to touch base and see if things had come online. I was told that the system was working. Victory! Or not. It turns out that the system was only working for new accounts, but because I was transferring my devices, that part of the system was still down. I went home. Defeated. Towards the end of the day, I called the customer service number. After waiting on hold for a small eternity (I needed to shave after), the customer service rep told me that the system was "down for scheduled maintenance." 


Let’s say you owned this company, would you do a day- long scheduled maintenance on your entire system… on the day after the launch of the iPhone… and a busy Saturday? Insanity. Lies. More lies. This is where most brands fall down. They lose all trust. They lose all credibility. All the rep had to say is this: "Sir, I can appreciate how excited you are to get started with your iPhone 6… you are not alone. Our systems are overwhelmed and as soon as it is back online, we will notify you by text." In fact, the can even leave out that whole "sir" part. Just give it to me straight.

Be honest.

The average consumer holds little to no trust for their mobile carrier. It’s like the cable company. Too much fine print. The plans are complex. They over-charge for roaming and everything has some kind of random fee attached to it. How is lying a reasonable strategy in this day and age? Will consumers be less angry, upset or disappointed if the truth gets out that the systems are overwhelmed, because so many iPhones were sold? Let’s go back to the beginning of the story: I was already in shock that my phone was available to me on launch day and that an actual human being from this organization called me to let me know. They offered a great experience in store, even though the system was down. They were both empathetic and apologetic. I wound up feeling worse for the people working in the store, because of the way that the other customers were treating them. Then, that phone call. A lie. A brush off. And, the worst part: making me feel like I’m stupid.

When brands tell lies, they cut deep. Nobody like to feel stupid… or that they’re being treated like they are.