"Last night there was no statement from Interflora despite repeated attempts to contact them". So wrote the Daily Mail, picking up though social media on hundreds of customer complaints about Interflora's failure to deliver Mothers Day bouquets.
Not surprised to hear of a hiccup or two on one of the busiest days of the year for the flower industry? I write about them this week to make two points about issues management in the social media age.
First, social media requires you to think laterally about all your communications. Interflora is no digital beginner. Only two weeks before it was penalised by Google for a crafty attempt at manipulating its search engine ranking. Yet its response to the customer issue was very linear. Customer problem - respond to customer. But the criticism was in the very public forums of its Twitter and Facebook feeds. It then jumped to traditional media.
No statement on or offline explaining, apologising or offering perspective. There were lots of display adverts saying 'trust us' when the feeds were full of customers who palpably could not.
Second, when your brand promise is "Every day, thousands of people trust us to deliver .... we pride ourselves on being the most personable too", then you must live out that brand in all your digital interactions too. Responding to each of hundreds of Twitter complainants with the same tweet ("we are sorry to hear this. please give us your order number and we'll investigate this for you") is not 'personal'.
Nor is telling a customer "it is only a very small percentage of orders that had a problem". Crass and hardly reassuring for the affected customer, social media allows that individual to amplify and aggregate that crass response to thousands. And offer suggestions to fellow customers about alternatives (www.bunches.co.uk since you ask). Just as an untreated small chip in your windscreen can become a crack, so mishandling a public dent to your brand can lead to a significant undermining of reputation.
Responding through social media requires care. The power of consumers these days as citizen journalists demands a different response from those engaged in issues management. The number of social media-sourced newspaper and broadcast stories is escalating. You might think it lazy journalism but it is the new reality.
O2 was praised for its tone of voice in response to last Summer’s network outage. Organisations should learn from that, reflect on their brand promise and respond similarly on social media.
Oh, and don't ignore repeated calls for comment from the Mail.MESSAGEINTHEMEDIA AUTOFEED