Ming watches: customer disservice redefined

After yesterday’s post, I got a ton of feedback… honestly, most of it was positive, in the sense that it would appear that Ming did the right thing, and agreed to sort out the problems with the recently launched watch. The overall tone was one I tried to keep balanced and objective, focusing on the facts – but adding my opinion about a better approach they could take going forward.

Today’s post is no different. Gavin (@simplyuhren) reached out to me with his own experience as a Ming customer, and I will share it here today. These are simply screenshots of the various conversations, as-received, and shared with permission. At the end, I will add my own opinion on the content. Gavin’s email address and surname have been redacted, but the rest is unedited.

The summary

Gavin bought a watch, and was unhappy with the unevenness of the lume on the hands of the watch – he reached out to Ming, and they explained this was normal, and within their standards. He disagreed, and they offered to take the watch back for inspection, but warned him that if they deemed it to be acceptable, they would not send it back, but refund him instead (and keep the watch). He sent it in, and they refunded him after inspecting it, stating that they believe it was acceptable. It is unclear why he didn’t get the option to take it back, as I think that would not be unreasonable… but that’s what happened. During the time between him receiving it, and them inspecting it, he posted some stuff on his Instagram about the lume not being perfect, and hoping they would sort it out – this is the key fact.

Fast forward a few months, he decides to order another watch in a subsequent Ming launch – they take payment, but then he gets a email saying they have cancelled his order because he posted about the previous watch (with the lume issue), before they had a chance to inspect it, and so they don’t want to serve him, and will never serve him on future watches either! He also shared the transaction values of the sales and refunds, which resulted in an FX loss for him – this is perhaps less relevant, as FX can move in both directions, but I got the information, so I will share that too.

Below I will share all the screenshots and hopefully my summary is an accurate one – but you can see for yourself.

5 December 2020 – He reaches out to Ming

After the initial contact…

The second image is a post made by a friend of his, but reposted in his own story, quoting the reply received from Ming, shown above. Worth noting that at this point, Ming had not been given the chance to inspect the watch, but would have seen this post. This becomes relevant later on.

14 Dec 2020 – Ming receives the watch for inspection

So that’s that. Ming took the watch back, and he got his refund.

17 Apr 2021 – He ordered another Ming watch

The transactions with Ming, resulting in FX losses

Final thoughts

My initial reaction was one of shock… after reading it a few times, I was curious about the words from Ming: “decided to publish a one-sided, biased version of events on social media“. So I asked Gavin, what did you post, which has upset them so much? He told me he has searched through his story archive and shared everything he has – I am sure Ming will have a version of their own to share, so worth reserving judgement on this.

Also worth noting that perhaps the lume issue was nothing to be concerned about, and perhaps the pictures show nothing serious is wrong. So what? Well, the customer is always right, and he spent the money, so that’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it. This isn’t a debate about whether the lume was an issue at all, or not.

What would I have done differently?

  • When the customer reached out saying the lume is uneven, Ming had an unhappy customer – the goal is to have a happy customer, not to get rid of them. If Ming is prepared to take it back and inspect, the customer should be given the chance to get it back after inspection. If nothing is wrong with the watch, the customer should pay the shipping charges for sending and getting it back. More often than not, the company covering the charges out of goodwill is quite well received anyway. The customer bought the watch because they liked it, and perhaps it is within Ming’s acceptable tolerances, but everyone is different, and of course you will never please everyone. That’s the nature of the business. I don’t see any reason to become condescending and talk about the limitations of physics. Just try and make them happy and lay out the possible solutions, without ‘penalising them’ for not being happy with what they got. This is simply arrogant, and sends the message that “we can do no wrong, so if you’re not happy, get lost, we don’t want you as a customer”. Customers should be entitled to their opinions, and while it is true that Ming is entitled to choose who they sell to, this is awfully petty when you think about it.
  • In my opinion – a brand being offended by posts on social media is quite comical. (Ironic, since that’s what I am doing here too). The way I see it, this customer bought a Ming watch, and it was defective (in his opinion). He then decided to give Ming another try, and he was rejected as a customer. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but this seems exceedingly arrogant. As far as I can tell – regardless of what may have been said on social media (which may not be in the images above) – taking the view that nobody is allowed to criticise the brand publicly is absolutely insane.

I have it on good authority that the entire Ming team has been through and overcome many types of challenges in their journey so far, particularly around criticism and negative publicity etc. That will explain a lot of their approach in dealing with complaints and criticisms – very defensive, lots of explanations and excuses, always assuming bad intent on the other party’s side.

I think Ming need to get some training from a person like Max Busser. Anyway, I still want to make it super clear that I have no personal vendetta here, and I am simply sharing facts and my own opinion around them – their watches are good, and this customer service issue can be improved with coaching. It would be cool if they didn’t blacklist people who criticise the brand – feedback is a gift, use it and thank people for it – don’t try and silence it.

If Ming wish to respond, and for me to post the response below this post, I would be happy to do that too. I hope this helps them get better as a company.

F

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Eddie Sng says:

    The issue for me is this – you are buying what marketing sold you. You don’t get to see the actual watch (just a photo of it), feel it and inspect it. So you buy on the assumption that the product should be of a certain quality. CHF975 is not a lot of money but when you throw a lot into marketing, the expectation is set. Especially when you say it is Swiss Made.
    When the quality does not meet expectations, you need to correct it. And rather than admit the lume is not up to mark, they decided to refund and ban the customer from future purchases – that sounds petty, very petty.
    If this is how direct marketing brands handle customer feedback and comments, there is no future for internet selling. What Ming has done is tell everyone that if you disagree with me, I will ban you. Instead of turning a negative comment into a positive situation for them, they screwed up the handling. Too bad.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. kingflum says:

      Good point about the trust placed in the company, to buy something without having seen it in person. I suspect Ming will argue they can’t please everyone, as alluded to in the COO’s email. There is a neutral compromise however, where people who want their money back, can have it; people who want their watch back, can also have it; and where Ming is prepared to correct the issue, they can do so. Ming are entitled to stick to their chosen standards and the buyers can decide if that’s good enough – but the rest of the story goes too far, where the guy gets banned for his actions etc… I don’t see how that helps anyone.

      Like

  2. Yash Gupta says:

    Ming’s feedback seemed very professional up till the point of explanation of the lume issue initially, and even offering to take back the watch for inspection (leave aside the fact that the option for returning the watch was not given). The “… some things are not possible at any price point due to the limitations of physics” comment is similar to a an insurance company claiming force majeure or act of God to not reimburse you. Clearly Mr. Praneeth Rajsingh has studied physics in his spare time and consulted with fellow physicists as he seems to be confident about the principles of fluid dynamics. Assuming that Ming (read as the COO) is right, the next thing that they need to look at is how to resolve this issue. Whether you change the lume application method, or the hand manufacturing method – you take this feedback as a stepping stone to improving your watch quality further.

    Refusing to serve a customer who “published a one-sided, biased version of events” seems equivalent to deleting negative feedback and paying for positive reviews. Considering the year that Ming has had with the negative publicity, one would have though that they would be more customer centric, especially when they are running a B2C model.

    Unfortunately Ming is slated to become the next big thing, so it really doesn’t matter what wrong they do – people will line up.

    Like

    1. kingflum says:

      Perhaps people will still line up to buy the watches at this price point… but if the company wishes to carry on with their plans to move into higher price points and more complicated watches, then this won’t fly.

      If you look at many of the high-end indies (and many lower-priced ones too btw) – their customers often love the brand and their service just as much as the watches. That’s the level which Ming should be aiming for; as opposed to deleting customers and issuing a refund because they can simply resell the watch to another person in the queue. This queue gets exponentially shorter as the price creeps up.

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  3. Nick says:

    The thing is, the lume is fine and what is happening is indeed a tradeoff of applying lume to a large surface area. So in this case, Ming cannot actually help the customer because there is a very good chance all the hands are indeed close or very close to this. And there exists the dichotomy, that the standards have been set, sometimes unreasonably and the customer does not believe the manufacturer and perceives it as BS or trying to wiggle out of customer service. So how do we bridge this gap when the customer things the provider is lying and they’re not? How do you accurately set expectations?

    What happens when Ming replaces the hands and they’re more or less the same? What’s the point of sending it in if they already know the answer? These are rhetorical and the truth is, it sets the brand and customer up to waste time and money all while becoming more disappointed because expectations cannot be met.

    In my opinion, you need to do a succinct job of explaining why it is like this without insulting the customer – which Ming absolutely failed to do. The way to explain is it that the hands have a large surface area and some of the heavier lume particles are pulled to the edge through capillary action. The hands are already made and this is how they are. Conceding to look for a hand set that is better sets the precedent that anyone with a slightly dark spot can send their watch in to have watchmakers spend their precious time comparing hundreds (dozens?) of hands to find the most homogeneous ones – which again, a waste of time and resource that inevitably ends with disappointment. The next stop is paying for the much more expensive lume application technique seen in watches in the $4,000+ range, but there are 2 problems here. The customer not wanting to believe the truthful answer that Ming gave them and Ming handling this in a way that is insulting to the customer and makes them look poorly.

    Taking someone’s watch and blacklisting them is quite a move, having to swallow your pride to explain and diffuse these situations is part of doing business. I cannot imagine blacklisting and taking back watches every time I had to explain or rectify a grievance.

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  4. BG says:

    I don’t really care about the “manner” in which Ming responded to Gavin. They could have been polite, rude, doesn’t matter- ultimately Ming failed because Gavin asked a question they had no answer to: why do other Ming watches have OK lume application but that one watch didn’t?
    Also, why are mass-producing watches from LVMH and Richemont able to nail the lume application down easily, but Ming cannot for this specific watch?
    Finally, why couldn’t Ming just swap the hands with better ones? By saying “no we’ll just refund your money and never order from us again”?
    The only thing Ming is screaming to the world is that they don’t stand behind their product or service.

    Like

  5. F. Use says:

    Interesting read, thanks for putting this together.
    I don’t think we need to bother Max Busser for yet another microbrand. I am sure that Ming can find a good quality sales training in KL. But the real problem is ego and it is so acute for some (at the reading of their emails) that no amount of training will do. They just need to go through life some more…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kingflum says:

      Fair points!

      Like

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