1800 Flowers-Valentine Rage

There’s an old saying in the Public Relations world that goes like this…

“Bad press is better than no press.”

I’m pretty sure the folks at 1800 Flowers would disagree with that statement.

Facebook, Twitter and social media in general have become, for better or worse, the customer complaint department. Companies and organizations are grappling with how to manage social media and online presence. In the case where customer service fails like the Valentine Day massacre of 1800Flowers.com public outcry lit up Twitter and Facebook faster than cupid’s arrow.

1800-FlowersSo here’s the situation as the media is reporting it. People by the thousands ordered flowers and such from 1800flowers.com to be delivered on Valentine’s day. Seems easy enough. You take the order, you fill the order, you deliver the order — happy company and happy customer.

Except that’s not what happened. Judging from the volume of messages on Twitter and Facebook there was an epic fail on the part of 1800Flowers to deliver as promised. Girlfriends and wives were left standing at the mailbox in droves, tissue in hand wanting for promised roses that would not arrive. It’s a boyfriends worst nightmare.

The simple thing at that point is to make it right. That’s where epic fail transcended into epic tragedy. When the unhappy customers started piling on the 1800 Flowers customer support line, reportedly staffed by outsourced contractor, customers were left stranded on hold or hours into the hold, dropped off-line without talking to a customer support rep.

So that’s where Facebook and Twitter became the public complaint desk. People unable to get satisfaction from the company defaulted to the Facebook account and literally by the thousands started posting the visions of their experience on 1800 Flowers wall.

The company seeing the bad-light of scorn pasted across their public wall did the one thing that made it worse. They started deleting the customer complaints off the Facebook page.

It’s a PR nightmare swirling around the corporate drain and 1800 Flowers may never fully recover. There’s an old adage in business that goes like this:

[box] If I don’t take care of my customers someone else will.[/box]

So what’s the lesson here?

For the customer I think it’s – pay the extra and support your local florist.

For 1800 Flowers I think it’s – Fix the processes, product sales/order fulfillment and customer service.

Frankly in today’s social world where customer’s are talking to each other like never before situations like this can drown a business in the swarm of negative conversation.

That’s the double edge sword of Facebook. Businesses understand the need to be there to compete, but I don’t think they understand the potential for public disaster. It’s like a company keeping a blank sign out by the street inviting graffiti artists to post to your hearts content.

Companies that don’t understand the power of social media and negative press should contact Guy Collision, Executive Director of the Arizona Humane Society and ask him about their Facebook experience related to “Scruffy.”

The only one smiling here may be the folks at 1-800-SEND-FTD.

Washington Post story on 1800-Flowers

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