So it’s been 48 hours since the emailed complaint and still no word from FTD. I’m not surprised. So once again, I picked up the phone and gave their Customer Service department a call. I expected more of the same, but surprisingly got someone on the phone immediately. (”Hi there, are you the person authorized to process my refund? ‘Cause if not, just call them over and don’t waste your time…”) I gave my order number and info and waited for 5 minutes while the Customer Service Rep read through the pages of notes now attached to my account. She re-verified my complaint one more time and brought another Rep and a Manager over to examine the situation. After sitting on hold for 15 minutes while she called the florist in Pittsburgh (who, she added, was hostile and “already answered these questions twice for you people”) for an explanation. He had none. They apologized and lo and behold, I got my refund and an apology.
So what can online businesses learn from this?
Knee jerk reaction would be to say that ordering from online companies is a bad idea, but that’s not true. I’ve heard from a number of people since this issue came up who suggested different, reliable companies (one family member ordered 3 deliveries from FTD and didn’t have a single problem). The issue is not with the platform, but the actual company being used. I could have searched for a local florist in Pittsburgh and either ordered through their site or over the phone, but I chose a different approach. I’ve ordered from other companies online with no problems whatsoever, and the more available they are online to me, the better. Perhaps this is why FTD was such a disappointment.
Apologies don’t mean much unless you follow through. Yes, I got my refund. That’s just good business practice. Yes I got an apology. Plenty of them. But when you tell a customer that you’ll resolve the issue for them and contact them on a specific day, as a business you put yourself on the line to follow through–especially if the customer is unhappy. They made a commitment to follow up with me twice, once via phone and once via email, and failed to follow through in both cases. In my last call to them, it was obvious that they had done the leg work on their end to find out what happened, so why was there no effort to contact me for the resolution? Which leads me to …
Apologies don’t repair breaches of trust. Without an explanation as to why they failed to contact me, the only logical reasons I can come up with are that A. They found out what really did happen, and hoped that by not contacting me they could retain the profit they made from me (Oh, how little they know about my persistence!), and B. They didn’t value me as a customer, so losing my future business was less important than keeping my $60 now. Were they too busy? Maybe. That’s not the point. If you make a commitment to a customer, they are taking you for your word. When you don’t follow through, that reputation is damaged. When you break it more than once, it becomes unlikely that you will ever regain the trust of that customer and will essentially lose them to the competitor who does communicate (even if it’s to explain the delay), and who does value the customer’s business and fact that they are choosing to spend their money with you. A refund and scripted apologies don’t repair trust.
If you want my business online (or anywhere for that matter), follow through on commitments/promises, value and respect your customer, be honest, and communicate. This whole debacle wouldn’t have happened had I received an email or call alerting me to the need for an out of the ordinary substitution. When we ordered flowers from ProFlowers, they let us know up front that the delivery area would be a problem. I respect that. Regardless of what the situation actually was, it appears that FTD knew they couldn’t produce the product, took my money anyway, and hoped I wouldn’t notice the swap. That’s unfortunate, but that’s what it looks like when you don’t follow through.