The Customer Is Always Right

I recently had a horrendous experience with an international florist.  As a single mum of a beloved only daughter, turning 21 and thousands of miles from home, I desperately wanted to surprise her on the morning of her birthday since I couldn’t be with her.  I did my research and opted for what seemed to be the perfect company (“100% satisfaction guaranteed”) and selected a beautiful bouquet of red roses, a special gift and a birthday balloon for delivery the next morning (they even offered same day delivery).Three Roses

Now I’m not given to being overly emotional (at least, not since I trained to do what I do!), but I spent the entire day of her birthday in floods of tears.  By the time I woke in the UK, it was already late afternoon in Hong Kong, and there had been no sign of a delivery.  To make matters worse, when I contacted the company they informed me that they couldn’t deliver until they had made contact with my daughter as the delivery address was university accommodation.  From past experience they had found receptionists unwilling to take in flowers unless the student was on the premises.  They claimed to have attempted contact with her several times, but she wasn’t accepting their calls.

To cut a long story short my daughter received only one missed call.  By this time I’d had to tell her about the planned delivery and the surprise was completely ruined.  And we still don’t know for sure whether the missed call was even from the florist as every time she tried to call that number back there was no response.  Despite several requests from me for them to provide us with a number for her to call (and so we could check the missed call was indeed from them), they did not.  Suffice to say I got a full refund through PayPal’s dispute resolution centre.  Am I satisfied? Absolutely not.  When a refund is given, the PayPal case is automatically closed, and so the florist had the last word in the process.  They insisted it was my daughter who was at fault for ‘not accepting’ their allegedly many calls!  And compensation for the sheer anguish I suffered was, they said, out of the question.

Nothing can make up for my utter distress as a mum at ‘my’ inability to get a simple bunch of flowers to my only daughter on her 21st Birthday.  I will never, ever use that company again. I will tell everybody I know about their poor service and how simply dreadful they made me feel – indeed here I am writing about it.   Now it is a well known fact that ‘the costs of gaining a customer can be five, ten, a hundred or a thousand times greater than retaining a customer.  All that many customers require is not to be upset’ (source: Businessballs.com).

Customers will quickly spread the word about poor service from a company that let them down, but are slower to praise good service – unless you truly bend over backwards to put things right.  In fact, something going wrong can lead to even greater customer retention if you handle it well.

Running a business myself, I know it is essential to step into the shoes of my customer and understand what they truly want.  My product or service is not what they are buying – they are buying a solution to their problem, their pain or that gap in their life.  If something goes wrong, all they require is not to be upset.  In fact, if I am targeting the right sort of customer for my business, going above and beyond the call of duty, feeling their pain and putting it right – no matter what it takes – will do far more for my business than if nothing had gone wrong in the first place.

My daughter won’t have another 21st birthday.  But the florist could have made me feel better and brightened her day in a whole host of other ways.  When things don’t do according to plan in my business, I know I will be thinking about what I can offer my customers as an incentive to stay.

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One thought on “The Customer Is Always Right”

  1. Wow. Just….WOW! Unbelievable. I’ve spoken many times on the customer always being right, even when they’re wrong (not that you are!). It’s all in how you handle it.

    Many years ago, I worked as a night audit manager for a 5-star hotel. A couple called down the next morning, complaining about phone charges and how they didn’t make them. Mind you, I’m looking at the separate computer screen, which shows calls were made from that room. You know what I did? I authorized the removal of the charges. Problem solved. The husband called back later in the day and told the front office manager that he was wrong…his wife made the calls.

    The way that florist handled your delivery….there are no words. For something as special as a 21st birthday, and the care you took in putting together her package, should have been A BIG CLUE to the florist to make sure it’s RIGHT! Instead, they blame you and your daughter. Totally not cool. You are doing a grave injustice by not mentioning the name of the company, although I understand why (we are in a litigious era these days!). Potential customers need to know how you were treated because, if they’re doing this to you, then they’re doing it to others.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I do hope she still managed to have a great 21st birthday!

    ~Erica

    PS If I can remember, I want to reblog this on Monday. This is an EXCELLENT example of a customer experience gone terribly wrong.

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