Much of the digital marketing discussion revolves around which brand or campaign is getting this or that digital media discipline right. But there are even more fundamental issues and lessons that have to be learned and re-learned by many brands. Basic customer service is unfortunately one of them.
A case-in-point: my Mother’s Day experience with FTD. There were multiple points of failure up and down the line. It’s almost a case study in how to alienate a customer.
For roughly ten days prior to Mother’s Day I was hit with FTD emails. I decided (on May 5) to send flowers to my mother. I specified that the arrangement be delivered on Saturday (May 7) to avoid any problem with the Mother’s Day delivery crunch. As I was about to check out on FTD.com, I saw that $35 of my order was taxes, fees and delivery charges — about 30% of the total order value.
Before I pulled the e-trigger, those service charges gave me pause. I thought I would probably get more value and better service from a local florist in my mother’s area. Yet against that intuition, I went ahead with the order.
— Greg Sterling (@gsterling) May 8, 2016
I assumed the flowers would be delivered on May 7 as specified. On May 8 (yesterday) I called my mother. In the early afternoon she called me back and left a voicemail. There was no mention of the flowers and I inferred they had not been delivered.
Fearing some sort of screw up, I went to FTD.com to check order status. After inputting the order number the site returned a message that said, essentially, the company was too busy to provide specific order information. I then called customer service.
That’s when things took a turn for the worse. Indeed, sometimes talking to a poorly trained customer service rep, or one that has little or no authority or incentive to really help, is worse than no interaction at all. Bad customer service will damage the value of a brand.
It was then about 4 pm Pacific Time and the call was answered by an offshore call center. After providing my order number I was told the flowers would be delivered by 9pm. WTF: this was both surprising and frustrating. I asked for identification of the local florist involved to get more precise information, but that was refused “for privacy reasons.”
After additional, fruitless discussion I asked to speak with a supervisor. That request was resisted multiple times (it was clear there was a policy of trying to deflect these requests). I was put on hold for about 15 – 20 minutes. The supervisor was less scripted and spoke better English. She told me the order was “out” and would be delivered soon. She couldn’t be more precise about status and also wouldn’t give me the identity of the local florist fulfilling the order.
During my roughly 40 minutes of elapsed time on the phone with these offshore agents, I started tweeting my frustration (see, e.g., above). However, nobody from @FTD ever responded on Twitter.
Once I got off the phone I went to Facebook and complained on FTD’s wall. There was a rapid but mostly impotent response. Late yesterday evening I got a voicemail from an FTD rep on the East Coast, whom I spoke with today. Someone must have escalated my complaint.
Eventually, the flowers were delivered, more than 24 hours late — though still technically on Mother’s Day. As I explained to FTD on the phone today, there were multiple points of failure in my interaction with the brand:
- The mediocre e-commerce experience
- The unrelenting “buy now” emails that continued after I placed my order
- The lack of any updates prior to delivery
- The failure to provide tracking information on the website on the critical day
- The use of tone-deaf offshore reps reading from scripts, who provided boilerplate responses
- The failure to respond on Twitter
My service charge was refunded, which was not offered but which I affirmatively demanded. The person I spoke to today (in the US) was sincerely apologetic and thanked me for my feedback. However I simply won’t use FTD again.
Next time I will heed that internal voice and go directly to a local florist (search: “florists” “city name”). That’s who’s doing all the work anyway — and that’s who should get my money.