What Happened: On February 6, a netizen named @再见啊旅人 revealed on Xiaohongshu that the mid-level Chinese fashion retailer Initial sent her a funerary wreath after an argument with its customer service. Since then, the company has been trending on Weibo’s hot search because of this disrespectful customer service disaster. During the Spring Festival, the netizen wrote online that she received a notice from the customer service of Initial’s online Tmall flagship store stating it had ordered her a funeral wreath following confusion over an order.
The well-known Hong Kong brand was founded in 2000 and has cultivated a predominately young following. It offers menswear and womenswear designed by an in-house team and is under the umbrella company Belle International Holdings Limited.
The Jing Take: Since this transgression came to light, Initial issued an apology on its Xiaohongshu account, saying it has fired the at-fault employee while halting its operations.
However, the move has not appeased China’s netizen anger. One citizen, known as Nn, wrote on Xiaohongshu that “we should be careful [where we] shop online in the future because we don’t know when they will send a funeral wreath.” But elsewhere, several other internet users suggested that firing a staff member was not the best way to solve the problem. “Obviously, the customer service training is not good enough,” commented another user (Chongchong or 虫虫).
But the issue gets even more complicated as Initial isn’t the only brand netizens have accused of failing to understand the value of customer care. On December 4, 2021, the Cartier store in Hangzhou MixC received widespread criticism for discriminating against customers. One customer named Mr. Chen reported that he overheard sales assistants questioning his ability to make high purchases, even though his shopping spree resulted in him buying a bracelet worth $64,924. Cartier has remained silent on the issue.
Companies must remember that their employees are, in fact, their best brand ambassadors. In light of this, luxury houses should make concerted efforts to ensure that their employees know the value of their customers. Staff must treat consumers with respect, no matter how established or big a store or luxury brand gets, online or off. In the e-commerce era, the behavior of customer service personnel will have a tremendous impact. China, after all, relies heavily on word of mouth.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.