Honoured Customer or It’s All About The Money!

Perhaps like many of you, I carry a curiosity about meditation. I’ve heard so many positive reviews of the practice not only in the media, but also from close and trusted friends. So in late October when I discovered an opportunity to experience guided mediation free for 21 days I – and one of my closest and dearest friends – made the commitment.

This was an internet-based program delivered by none other than Deepak Chopra. If you are unfamiliar with Deepak, I’m tempted to say “Where have you been?”. He is a very famous and wise Indian-born American physician, champion of holistic health, author and speaker. I, like hundreds and thousands of others, have developed a deep respect for him and what he shares with the world.

The set up was simple. Each day a link to a meditation arrived in my inbox. If I missed a day, the links remained available, for a limited time, so I could catch up. I’ll say that while I failed miserably at creating a daily meditation practice, I did enjoy and experience some benefit from those I completed. So much so that, when it was over, it being Christmas, I decided to purchase the program as a gift for three like-minded friends.

Should I have been prepared for what transpired? Probably. As I write this story I’m squirming a bit because I think it reveals a naïveté of which I’m not proud. Right from the start of the 21-day challenge, participants were encouraged to purchase the program. The “free” part was definitely linked to an anticipated revenue stream, but I didn’t give this a lot of thought. I simply enjoyed what I received and decided to share it with others.

Some things about the purchase of the program were not clear. How would my friends receive it and when would they receive it? For example, could I organize my gift to arrive on Christmas Day? Could my friend who travels constantly easily access the meditations on her iPad? I thought perhaps I’d gain clarity as I moved through the purchase process so clicked my way to buying the first gift. My questions were never answered so … being The Phone Lady, I picked up the phone.

Again, I’m squirming. So freakin’ naïve! I called the Chopra Centre and expected to have a delightful experience. Why? Because it’s the Chopra Centre and Deepak is all about love and light and peace. This is not only who he is, but it is his brand. I expected to experience his brand.

I won’t bore you with all the details. Suffice to say that I was hung up on twice, spoke with the most bored, uninterested individuals you can imagine, and was clearly told that my needs did not matter. I was shocked!

I placed three calls to the Centre. Not one of them was pleasant. I was received the way one welcomes a mosquito in a tent, not the way one welcomes a customer.

I also sent a tweet to the Chopra Centre – no response. And a tweet to Deepak – no response. And an email to an address at the website. Here’s the response:

Hi Mary Jane,

Since you purchased the download you will need to contact the download department. Below are the email and phone number to reach them.

It was the “download department” that had the “go pound sand” attitude so I didn’t follow up.

This experience left me feeling used. Instead of the message of peace and abundance attached to the meditation program, I was left with an experience of greed. Whatever the story is behind the scenes, that the Chopra Centre has contracted out to a call centre and are unaware of the inadequacies or that I happened to reach three miserable human beings in a company full of happy people … or whatever … I, as a paying customer now know I do not matter. Period.

Recently a new 21-day meditation program has been announced and my dear friend with whom I shared the first one is hoping I’ll join her again. Sorry, Tash, I can’t do it. The dichotomy between the values espoused in the meditation program and the Centre’s view of the participants is not something I can support. It makes me sad. It makes me angry. I’m keeping my credit card in my wallet!

But this experience was also a good learning curve and reminder. Our brand matters to our customers. They come to us because of that message and they trust that it’s truthful. And everything we do, from how we answer the phone to the free promotional programs we offer, must align with that brand or we create a betrayal.

Agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

And if you have time, I encourage you to read another story, posted by my colleague Stephanie Holmes-Winton, about the $4.99 banana: http://themoneyfinder.ca/this-blog-post-cost-me-4-99/

Best wishes for a great week and happy dialing!


0 thoughts on “Honoured Customer or It’s All About The Money!”

    • Good point, Linda. But when you hire others to represent your brand, you have to be proactive in providing them with guidance and support.

  1. okay trusted colleagues….let the tweeting begin!!!

    I just bought an exercise/nutrition program from an info-mercial on Saturday. I spoke with Juliette and although she was going by a script she was “delightful”…yes, there was upselling involved, which I didn’t purchase, but Juliette, as a human being, made the transaction great. I would expect much less from this experience than one with the “Great Chopra”. Who knows, maybe it is all about the money. Mary Jane, I look forward to watching as this unfold. Keep us informed 🙂

    • Thanks, Debi. Yes, let’s see where this goes. It is so important that we speak out about the service we receive, especially when it is 100% contrary to branding.

  2. I recently heard a story about Deepak from someone whom I trust and who actually picked him up at the airport on his last visit to Halifax. According to her, he was more interested in tweeting than talking to her so Twitter may be the way to go. I would say that Deepak marches to his own drum!

    • Hi Sheila, Yes, marching to his own drum … I think we all do that to some extent while at the same time delivering excellent service to our customers/clients. And there is such an expectation of calm and light that he creates. That must be infused into his relationships with those that are his customers.

        • I don’t think so, Sheila. The system is too slick for that … lots of options to choose from in the main menu, etc. My guess is that he has outsourced his customer service and that is has no real connection to the Chopra Center … but of course the customer wouldn’t know. I think a volunteer would have been able to inject more joy into the phone call than I received from the folks I reached.

  3. MJ – Was it mediation or meditation? And easy to understand how they’d get interchanged. They’re each the correct spelling for different words that look the same and fit in the same context. You only lose half a mark!

    • Thanks, Brookes. I was conscious of my tendency to make this error as I wrote the column but obviously still missed the incorrect spelling in my proofreading. Thanks for letting me know. I’ve done another edit.

  4. Mary Jane, Seems to me an inconsistent message due to a missing t in many of the words. I think you meant to say meditation through out the email but mediation kept being written and repeated.

    • Hi Gary,

      Thanks for letting me know. Much appreciated! I do have trouble with these two words on the keyboard. I’ve done an edit and hopefully I’ve caught all the errors.

  5. Mindfulness has become so mainstream these days that there is a strong stream of McMindfulness in the marketplace: thin, commercialized versions that offer “6 easy steps to a pure mind” rather than any rich, well-cooked nourishment. I think this is okay, a problem we should have. This kind of popularization shows that meditation is becoming a cultural norm, which is good. But, as you say, it can be hard to tell the real thing from the fast food. I’ve studied and taught mindfulness meditation for 25 years and find that my executive coaching clients increasingly want to include it in our work together. I’m delighted by this, but also very grateful that I have a deep background to draw on. For anyone exploring mindfulness for themselves, it’s a great thing to do for yourself, but I can suggest that the bigger the promises about changing your life, the more suspicious you can be.

    • Thank you, Crane. That is very simple yet sage advice. And there are many opportunities to apply it to the information we receive each day. Very pleased that you shared this with everyone!

  6. I’m suffering through endless amounts of Chopra Spam after signing up for one meditation and then purchasing the meditation. I have “unsubscribed” countless times, to no effect. I haven’t had any sort of customer service type correspondence but I can count on seeing that Oprah & Deepak email at least once a week. They’re very determined.


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