I was not able to be with my mom this Mother's Day :( We are incredibly close, so it was hard not being able to spend the day of the year with her that celebrates her. However, in all honesty, I try to ensure everyday is somehow celebrating her and everything she's done for me, and continues to do for me.
So, in lieu of an in-person visit, I sent my mom a beautiful orchid from 1-800-Flowers.com. I received the exact same orchid as a gift from an ex-boyfriend when we were separated during one of my birthdays in NYC, and absolutely fell in love with it. In fact, I've received many gifts from 1-800-Flowers.com over the past few years that have all arrived in mint condition. I was so impressed by the quality of the delicate flowers they send around the country, that I started using them as my own go-to source for gifting.
Then I received a text from my mom this weekend that her orchid arrived with the bud cut off of it. "Honey, thank you so much for the orchid, but the bud broke off of it, and it's a miniature one. Did you know you sent me a miniature orchid?" Yes, Mom, I know I sent you the miniature one ;) She then went on to tell me that she already had been on two separate calls with 1-800-Flowers.com, a half hour each, waiting to get someone on the line. This is where I started getting a little discouraged, because the last thing I wanted to do was have my mom on the phone to a customer service department for an hour when she was supposed to be receiving a gift to celebrate her day.
I told my mom to stop calling, and quickly Tweeted 1-800-Flowers.com. Within a half hour, they had a new orchid on the way to my mom and provided me with a gift certificate for the value of the orchid I purchased. Now that's customer service.
One incredibly important part of this story, though, is that at no point did I feel like tearing apart 1-800-Flowers.com because they sent a broken gift to my mom. Why? While I would love to say it's because I'm an incredibly kind, patient person, it's actually more to do with the fact that, over the years, the company has invested in a positive bank for me. Each experience I've had with them has been amazing, and they've always provided me with top quality products. They've become an engrained part of my life, putting their authentic stamp on special birthdays, Valentine's Days and "just thinking of you" moments in my life. So, when they slipped up by sending a broken orchid, I was quicker to not hold them in the wrong and think of the best of them. Each positive experience I had with them contributed to neutralizing my reaction when I had my first negative one with them. They invested so much in my positive bank, that I actually don't even view this as a negative situation at all.
Here are some tips to investing in your consumers' positive bank:
Provide A Good Product
I can tell you anything here, and it's not going to work unless you have a stellar product to begin with. 1-800-Flowers.com mostly built their trust with me by ensuring that they sent high quality flowers on multiple occasions to and from me. This allowed me to stay calm and know that this one broken orchid was just a mistake, and I trusted they would fix it.
Respond To Everything
A lot of brands don't put enough value into this. They spend a lot of energy responding to any high-risk Tweets, etc. that might spur a host of negative conversations online, ignoring the positive/neutral Tweets because they aren't threatening to the brand. This is a HUGE mistake. Responding to ALL content allows brands to build up a positive bank of experiences with consumers so when something does go wrong, they trust you as a friendly brand that will go the extra mile for them. If you spend the time as a brand to invest in ALL of your consumers, not just responding the high risk complainers, then I guarantee you will see those complainers decline after awhile.
Send "Just Thinking Of You" Messages
Use common sense here because you obviously don't want to scare away consumers because you're a "creeper" brand. However, dropping in every now and then on consumers that you notice frequently reach out to your brand does not hurt. This helps consumers feel more connected, like you actually care about them as an individual and aren't just interested in their money.
When It Comes To Customer Service, Be Another Human
One of the things I loved most about my customer service experience with 1-800-Flowers.com is that the woman who helped me made me feel like she was actually another human being that cared that my mother did not get the perfect I orchid I ordered for her. She used her first name with me, not just initials, and genuinely apologized. From the very beginning, I knew Janet was going to have my back.
In that rare instance when a consumer does have an issue with your brand, follow-through with them a month or two later to make sure everything was handled well your customer service team delivered.
By investing in positive banks for your consumers, and building trust with them, you will most likely avoid having nasty, drawn out customer service conversations on social networks in the future. If consumers feel that they are valued by the brand, and have had positive experiences with the brand, they are less likely to go on a rant that could end up destroying your brand's reputation. Take some time this week to start investing in some positive banks in your social ecosystem. You won't regret it.
- Marji J. Sherman