One of the branding concepts that people – including business people – have a hard time getting their heads around is that your brand encompasses everything you do as a representative of your business (and even a lot of things you do that apparently have nothing to do with your business).
The 1-800-Flowers Valentine’s Day debacle is a good case in point.
February 14th is the biggest day of the year for florists, so they need to have their ducks in a row to make sure the day goes smoothly. This year, 1-800 Flowers had several hundred missed deliveries, leading to angry Significant Others, and lots of (mostly) boyfriends left in lots of cold, lonely doghouses.
Dropping the ball on Valentine’s Day deliveries is bad enough if you’re an international flower distributor, but you can bounce back from something like that with great customer service. Unfortunately 1-800 Flowers dropped the ball here too and was savaged repeatedly on Twitter, under the hashtag #flowerfail. When people called to complain, they were subjected to long waits, hung up on, or generally given a big brush off.
What does this have to do with your brand?
Here’s the thing: every time you communicate with a customer – visually, on the phone, in person, through an email, or even their invoice – you’re contributing to their impression of your company. You’re building your brand. How you handle these communications is your brand.
This is especially important in the current social media saturated brand environment, where no transaction remains between the customer and the service provider. The hundreds of rudely brushed off customer service complaints were magically transformed into thousands of people who read in their Twitter feeds what happened to their friends.
One slightly mitigating factor in favor of 1-800 Flowers was that their own Twitter feed handled the complaints much more professionally and effectively.
How many of the customers who got left out in the cold twice – once with the failed delivery and once with the crappy customer service – on Valentine’s Day are going to use 1-800 Flowers next year? How many of their Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc will use them?
This is the power of branding: it goes beyond individual transactions. 1-800 Flowers’ brand has been damaged in a way that will almost certainly hurt their sales and revenue.
Branding Pro Tip #1 :: Remove ironic landing page text and graphics when something goes wrong (the graphic at the top of this post was still on their website yesterday!).
Branding Pro Tip #2 :: You should be using Twitter to talk to your customers to help deal with emergencies like this one.