I’ve been mulling over the responses that Kryptonite sent back. Something didn’t sit quite right with the answers until I was chatting with Johnnie Moore this morning. We both realized that standard, traditional, old-school PR-speak. Although the story likely had a human side, a side that’s infinitely more interesting and endearing, I’m not feeling that in the response. It’s too defensive and doesn’t fall on the sword enough. There was a problem with their product. That’s totally Kryptonite’s fault, it happens. The sooner they admit it, the better for everyone. Hiding the full story, or trying to spin it to make it sound less bad isn’t going to help. These answers provided should have been appropriate to a blogger and a blogging crowd, not a re-purposed press release, trying to offset possible litigation.
Rather than just give commentary, I thought it would be a good idea to rewrite the answers in a “community friendly” way. Thanks Johnnie for sparking the thought.
Let me also say very clearly – I don’t know anything about the background of this story. I’ve embellished a bit for demonstration purposes. So awaaaay we go!….
1. For those readers not familiar with the story, can you briefly recap what happened?
In mid-September 2004, bloggers discovered a security problem with our tubular cylinder locks. Using common materials, the security of our locks could be compromised.
Despite reports to the opposite, the moment we received reports of this problem, our team kicked into overdrive to fully understand and address the issue. Before September 2004, we?d not been aware of this problem, and had received no reports of this problem from other Kryptonite users.
We?re a pretty small company (30 people), but in the first few days after the first reports came in, nearly our entire staff was focused on finding a solution to this issue. As you can imagine, any plan we came up with had to incorporate strategy for manufacturing, shipping, retailers, consumers, dealers, and other third party partners. And all of this under a steady influx of consumer and media contacts. This was a fairly daunting task.
At the end of that first week, we had an initial plan developed, and announced it via our Web site and through BusinessWire. We also followed up with the media outlets that had contacted us. A few days after that initial plan announcement, we announced the final plan the same way.
The final plan was pretty simple:
Anyone with any Kryptonite tubular cylinder lock we?ve ever produced (30+ years) can exchange the lock at our cost for a non-tubular version. We pay the shipping round-trip.
We also contacted our dealers and distributors to fill them in on the security problem, and worked out a replacement plan to swap out their entire inventories with non-tubular locks.
One of the reasons it took longer than we would have liked to finalize this plan is because of the unique nature of this plan. As I understand it, this is the first time any company in our industry has put a replacement program this large in place (To date, we have received over 90,000 registrations and sent postage paid labels to over 60,000 consumers worldwide).
2. There were reports that the initial calls to your company regarding the lock issue were disregarded. Can you tell us a bit about that from your perspective?
Honestly, I?m not sure how this story came about. I brought this up with our call center manager and after some research within her team, she couldn?t find any data to back this up.
I asked our call center manager about this and she said that as soon as we were contacted, the issue was elevated to the appropriate departments who immediately acted on the report.
After the reports around the blogosphere, you may not believe this, but for decades Kryptonite has taken great pride in our high level of service.
3. Does your company have a better or different understanding of the power of the blogosphere after this incident?
Without question. As a whole, our company didn?t have a clear understanding of the nature or power of blogs. I don?t think that many people in the company, or in the business world for that matter, had a clear picture of what can happen when the blogosphere sets its sites on something.
As a PR person, the most interesting part of the watching this story unfold was the way that the traditional media interacted with bloggers who were writing this story up. Traditional media first started interviewing bloggers about the effect of blogging on a company. But over days and weeks, the media outlets started to interview bloggers about our plan to solve the problem. I found it odd that normally critical journalists were nearly treating bloggers as company spokespeople.
I guess we?re all learning here!
4. If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?
Absolutely. Hindsight is always 20/20, and with an issue this big, I?d be delusion to say that we couldn?t have done things better.
We tried to get ahead of the story, to ensure we were getting as many facts and insight out to consumers and media. We knew that with a lack of communication, the story would spiral into untruth.
To your question above, one of the things we learned is how much traditional media plans simply don?t work very well in our wired world. We were sending email updates on a daily basis to consumers and media who had contacted us to keep them up to speed.
While we were doing our best to keep consumers up to speed, the private nature of email, rather than public postings (on Kryptonite.com, for instance), created a belief in the public that we weren?t reacting very quickly.
One thing I realize now, and hopefully never again have to apply, is that we could have had great success in setting up a blog of our own to document our process and results.
5. Out of all bad things come some good. What would you say is the good in this situation for you?
I’m glad you asked – I completely agree with that point. I know this might sound weird, but I think we learned exactly how loyal and passionate our customers are. We had plenty of people contact us upset about the security problems, but we had an impressive number of consumers, distributors, and retailers voice their support for us. We always believed that we had a well known and respected brand, but the positive things that came out of this negative situation really brought that home.
While I certainly hope we never have to deal with a problem like this again, I think we?ve developed an extremely successful Lock Exchange program. The walls of our consumer service area is covered with letters from our consumers thanking us for our efforts and promising to be life-long customers.
To get a little personal, this was the best team building experience a company could ever have. This small group of driven people put our heads down and worked night and day to create the best plan for our customers. In the end, I think, we worked better together than we ever have and swiftly came up with a great plan for all Kryptonite customers worldwide. Like you said, something good comes out of something bad ? and in this case, we?ve grown closer to each other, and have improved our communication internally, and have improved our product development process with these new learnings.
(This might not be perfect, but you get the point, I’m sure)
Trust me, as someone who stands on the consumer front lines every day, I understand how hard it is to push back the fear and defensiveness. The fact is, that’s the job. It’s not easy, and it’s not fun sometimes. But the results can be incredible when you shove the traditional, old-school, fear-based mindset aside.