Retaining Customers After a (Literal) Blowout

Recently, Zion Williamson, the Duke University basketball superstar, had a much-publicized sneaker blowout during one of the most-viewed US college games in history. Nike, who made the shoe, had their feet to the fire over the incident in what some called a firestorm and others called a witch hunt.

Apart from issuing a statement that wished Zion a speedy recovery and stating that they were researching the cause of the isolated incident, the shoe giant was initially relatively quiet. Everyone else was extremely vocal. Memes, think-pieces, and predictions flooded social and traditional media. Some predicted a meteoric fall for the brand. Others claimed it was just a wobble and consumers needed to move past it.

Zion Williamson

It begs the question, what should you do when you disappoint customers? Nike can’t call every shoe buyer and have one-on-ones to assure them this was a one-off. Is the smart response to “take the hit,” and reaffirm that it’s an exceptional occurrence? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, acknowledge a part in injuring one of the sport’s top players?

When you’ve disappointed one customer there are several things businesses and professionals can do to reestablish trust and move forward. But what do you do when you’ve disappointed many? The answer lies in how you treat them when things are going right.

Consistently add value. Steven Covey talks about the Emotional Bank Account in the ‘7 Habits’ franchise, and how trust is built by making more deposits than withdrawals. The concept of adding value is well-documented and not a new idea. Ensuring that your customers are happy and healthy from the start puts you in a position to better navigate setbacks when they occur.

Walk the talk. Whatever your message or mission, ensure that everyone does what they say they are going to do. It’s an ‘all day, every day’ requirement. By building your reputation this way, your customers will more easily forgive and forget. If you start with your employees, your employees will take care of your customers.

Be authentic. Using a personal, authentic, human voice in communication to employees and customers is essential when things are going well – as well as when things are rocky. Ditch the legalese and the jargon, and be real. People will appreciate it.

It’s easy to see how Zion’s injury sparked so much outrage and interest, but Nike’s ongoing response is encouraging and positive. How Nike is handling the situation in the court of public opinion will undoubtedly shape future purchase habits.