I don’t work in the flower industry, don’t know much about the business (beyond how to order products at least) but when Teleflora made a Facebook post with a customer service email address the day after Valentine’s Day, the reason why was pretty obvious – something had gone wrong – something which was making people very, very upset.
Of course anyone working in ecommerce, or any corporation, could have told you there would be problems. Tens of millions of flower orders , dozens of companies, and just 18 or so hours to get them all there on time (but not too early), it’s only logical that some orders would fail within the process… Some complaints were inevitable.
And some level of complaints are inevitable for almost all b2c companies. No matter how perfect the process is, something will fail at some point and whether it’s the fault of the company or something entirely out of their hands, like the weather, it’s all going to come back on them, and these days back to social media. So knowing that something bad will happen, it’s up to us as marketers/ social strategists to insure that when problems come up we have the right plans to respond, but also that they don’t dominate the conversation or become the purpose of our page. We need to be more than just support channels .
Going back to my Teleflora example (and to be clear and not just pick out one company, the same issue is happening with ProFlowers and others that I checked), something is missing – balance. On the pages of most flower brands I visited just about everything was negative and support related. If these companies had happy customers (and I know they do because I am one) they were nowhere to be found and likely for good reason, no one had asked them to join up and share.
My suggestion to flower business earlier in the week was to provide an insert with orders for people to evangelize their great orders (or their bad ones, a review is what it is). All it takes is a simple note to remind people to comment, to tell them where you are, and out of the millions, thousands or even of just hundreds of customers you touch, you’ll get some balance… You’ll get light advocates.
Take this a step further, build a social program that encourages fan participation before the issue and you’ll be far more prepared when one does strike. This is where best practices really kick in – buying fans in masse with discounts, coupons and giveaways is easy and gets numbers, but successfully cultivating them takes a great deal more than good offers, it takes useful content, engaging directly around posts other than support, even how the business goes to market, the policies and programs that you have and how your fans react to them. But if you can build a dialogue and a regular flow (and yes, this is possible for even seemingly mundane brands) then you have moderate advocates on and around to help when there are negatives, to explain that there is a good to the bad, and to be talking about things other than support and trouble. And of course if you really go all the way, develop that full advocacy program and engage customers to become brand evangelists, community leaders, and the like, well now you have a whole force of people to balance and even better, aid.
Now don’t get me wrong, the issue customers are having with their flower orders are certainly very real and need a response, not to be buried or hidden by a flood of off topic discussions. Transparency is good, real responses are what matter. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have both – it is again a balance of what your social media channels do for you and your customers.
As for the support side, we all know it isn’t easy, or cheap, but it is something which companies tend to get… and here, the flower companies are doing a good job of responding 1:1, giving direct email addresses, and all of the other support processes you’d hope for when customers are upset and support lines are backed up with callers… they may not be perfect but they’re on it for this part. But while the support side is going well, when all people see is bad, they get more upset, the assume nothing is going right, and they lose the benefit of peer to peer support or comments to turn too.
And that’s why you need your fans to know, connect and be involved with your social media presence now, when things are good. Social media is not just about offers and sales generation, not just a support system, but when used right, it can be a dialogue platform to get insights, have the right discussions that curtail or stop issues early on, and yes, be a place where people share all the great things your product / service / brand are doing that may them advocates and repeat customers.