When a customer experience doesn’t live up to its brand

25.01.10 | Posted in General

When I think of Tiffany & Co, I think Audrey Hepburn. I think elegance and sophistication. I think romance and aspiration. It’d be fair to say that many women (and men) have stood outside the iconic jeweller’s window, dreaming that maybe one day a Tiffany piece will be all theirs.Audrey Hepburn

So what happens when that day comes and you’re left feeling empty and ripped off?

Tiffany & Co is to me the perfect example of a brand not measuring up to its heritage and brand story. A few years ago a friend and I went in there to try on engagement rings. We were as excited as schoolgirls entering the store. Almost immediately we were let down.  No one offered to help and when eventually we asked for some service, the assistant was distracted and nonchalant.

I’d almost forgotten that vacant disappointment until this week when I wanted to buy a gift for a client. Thinking that Tiffany would be an ideal place to find this present I jumped online. I found two pieces that would’ve been suitable and picked up the phone to dial the number listed on the site.  An American girl (“Hi this is Tiffany”) answered and when I asked her how she was she said, “Good, what can I do for you?” as if trying to rush me off the phone. I took a deep breath and asked about the difference between my two choices.

Again, with her response, I felt brushed off and not looked after. She was disinterested, and the whole time I felt as if I were an inconvenience to her day. I wanted the gift sooner than the 7-10 day delivery period so she gave me the number of my local store.

When I called there, the same thing happened! Complete disinterest (bordering on rudeness!) from the person I spoke with. No friendliness, no shared excitement that I was purchasing from arguably the world’s most famous jewellery brand, no love.

DeusThis was in stark contrast to the customer experience my husband and I recently at one of his favourite brands – Deus Ex Machina ( This is Mambo founder Dare Jennings’ latest venture and they’ve got it going on. The staff  seem engaged and passionate about the brand (it’s a motorcycle/surf culture business) and are happy to have a chat with you. When we were there, the general manager of the flagship store (based in Sydney’s Camperdown) spent a good half hour with us, took us into the workshop and shared the story of how the brand came to be. I suppose they understand that it’s a good investment to engage customers in that story so that then we’ll go and tell it to others. Hmmm, it worked!

Have you had similar experiences where a brand has failed to live up to your expectations; or perhaps a brand has surpassed what you expected? Love to hear your thoughts below.


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  1. Rowan

    This definitely pushes some buttons, hopefully the messages will get back to Tiffany & Co… I sat next to the founder of one of my new favourite brands – Hurley. I always wonder, how does someone start a brand, where does the name come from. Well, sitting on a flight from LA to Sydney I glanced at the boarding pass of my fellow traveler and it read Bob Hurley, we introduced ourselves and he started to tell me about his life and his journey. This brand is an extension of him, the things he loves and the things he wants to spend his time doing. The interesting thing he mentioned was, “How does Hurley stay relevant to the people who love and enjoy what they do?” It is such an interesting question… he believes this thinking will dictate whether brands thrive, survive or die ! One thing they are working on is the best pair of board shorts in the world, I think they sell for $200 and for people who live in these and use them for their hobby/profession there is nothing better. I loved the idea of really getting involved in what the purpose is, standing for it and making that available. He mentioned initiatives like this are growing the company exponentially and resulting in amazing profits. Instead of thinking how can we produce 60 styles of board shorts per season, they are becoming more focused more relevant and delivering on what they set out to do. A brand is an opportunity to express emotions and add something special to someones life experiences.

  2. Marina

    I have had many disappointing experiences like this. Reminds me of Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts character is refused service in the dress shop! The worst thing is the standards keep dropping. I don’t look my age so you can imagine what shopping for a wedding dress was like – some shop assistants looking down their noses like I’d no business even being in the store! Amazing how many people make assumptions.

    Late November last year I was on a mission, it was 3.45pm and I needed a new dress appropriate for a cocktail event which was due to start at 6pm. I went to every dress shop in Westfield Chermside (Qld) and at best I got an insipid hello. Some places the staff didn’t even look up to acknowledge me. We’re talking 40+ shops. The last dress shop I walked in to was Jacqui E. I was immediately greeted and offered assistance. I bemoaned feeling old and not liking the current fashions, I described my requirements to a very sympathetic assistant and was given a tour of the shop with the assistant asking my size and choosing pieces with me, encouraging me to try them on. I went into the change rooms with six items, and although the shop was busy and it was nearly closing time, the assistant insisted on seeing every one of them, offering genuine advice (not blatantly lying for the sake of a sale) and not surprisingly I walked out with a stunnning dress – within my budget – that suited the occaision. What a difference customer service makes! The dress I bought looked pretty bland on the hanger and left to my own devices I probably wouldn’t have tried it on. Next time I need a dress Jacqui E will be top of my list.

  3. Emma Isaacs

    Great story Marina, thanks! It’s so fantastic when sales assistants show honesty and service – there’s no doubt it makes for a brilliant customer experience.

    Your experience with your wedding dress made me laugh because my mum always tells me about when she was getting married….She was only eighteen and went wedding dress shopping (in her school uniform!!!!!) with her dad, and no one would take her seriously. She ended up buying an expensive dress from a shop where someone showed interest in her – it just shows that you can never judge a book by its cover!

  4. Shandra

    Wow that tiffany’s story is a shocker, and unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the exception…
    I’ve got to say it makes me really punchy when staff are so disconnected and deliver such poor service.
    It also makes me wonder about the business itself – they employ these staff and allow them to destroy the brand they are supposedly trying to build.

    The front line people are the brand and so businesses really need to take responsibility for attracting and retaining staff that are a great fit for their brand and who will contribute to it’s growth [eg deus ex machina – a great example of a living brand!] and not destroy it with their apathy…