How 1-800-Flowers Ruined Valentine’s Day

Social media is changing the face of customer service, and even institutions that don't participate in social channels must take note.

 
 

Social media is a great tool for brands to promote their products and interact with customers. However, positive return on this investment, famously, remains difficult to ascertain. Negative return on investment? Well, you know it when you see it.

Just ask 1-800-Flowers. The $756 million online flower retailer didn’t have a good Valentine’s Day. Customers were disappointed in wilted, sparse, or wrong flowers, and many took to social media — specifically Twitter and Facebook  — to voice their anger, disappointment, and confusion, making #1800FlowersFail a trending Twitter hastag on Saturday.

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What Does This Tell Us?

The lesson here is in the power of social media.

On the one hand, 1-800-Flowers clearly has an issue at some level of its organization — whether in distribution or quality assurance. On the other, when these pictures of what might otherwise have been isolated incidents started to go viral, creating a major PR disaster, 1-800-Flowers again dropped the ball.

It’s hard to say exactly how many customers tweeted about their dissatisfaction to 1-800-Flowers, but judging by its recent Twitter activity, the issue is widespread.

What’s worse is 1-800-Flowers' response. It offered this statement to the Today Show: “If a customer is not completely satisfied with their order, our caring team obsessed with service will redeliver, refund, credit or offer a comparable exchange.” 

A nice sentiment. However, on Twitter, 1-800-Flowers replied to each mention of dissatisfaction with the same boilerplate apology, offering an apology and asking the user to direct message the order number.  

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The replies look tired at best and robotic at worst.

Social media can be an anonymous medium, but companies would do well to avoid apologizing in the same manner. Each tweet of dissatisfaction — the real ones anyway — represent a real customer angry about lazy or failed business practices.

Social media has changed customer service by expanding customer expectation. Meet real-time complaints with immediate and sincere response. These are your customers, the individuals whose preferences keep you in business. Treat them as such. Social media has provided a channel for these interactions to take place, just know that everyone is watching.

 
 

Feb. 18, 2015


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