My wife and I spent an unusual Valentine’s Day this year. There was an online offer for flowers that I took advantage of. The flowers were kind of overpriced but they looked beautiful online and I decided to go for it. Since my wife doesn’t like surprises, I asked her to pick out the arrangement she liked best and she did. I knew that the flowers I ordered would be arranged and delivered by a local florist.
On February 14th we exchanged cards, had a nice dinner together and waited for the flowers to arrive. They never did. We were perplexed to say the least. Each time the door bell rang we were sure that the flowers would be there but they weren’t. It was UPS or a neighbor.
The next day, we checked our voicemail and evidently we had missed the message from the night before saying they were overloaded and wouldn’t be able to deliver the flowers on Valentine’s Day. This was kind of unbelievable to me. How could a florist shop fail to deliver flowers on the industry’s biggest day of the year? The driver called us in the morning, apologized and said we could either get our money back or he could deliver the flowers that day. I chose the latter not feeling terrific about either of my choices.
I was tempted to call the online flower service about this glitch but hoped I could work out something with the local florist first. I told the driver that not getting the flowers on Valentine’s Day was a big disappointment for my wife and thus for me. I said I’d like them to make it up to us by delivering a future arrangement for free. He said he’d have to talk to the manager about that and get back to me. He hung up. I waited, mildly irritated.
The manager called soon thereafter and I told her what I would like them to do to set things right. She said she couldn’t make such a decision on her own and would have to talk to the owner. She hung up. I waited again.
She called back to say that the owner had agreed to this. I thanked her and asked her to be sure to have the Valentine’s flowers delivered today when we were home—after 1 PM. She said that wouldn’t be a problem.
At 6 PM I called the shop wondering where the flowers were. I was told that the drivers were still out. I called again at 7:30 PM only to get the same response. The flowers (which were quite lovely) arrived just before 8 that evening. I didn’t feel taken care of at all. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.
Mistakes like this are so costly on many levels. Ironically, if handled correctly, a major mistake like this can be an opportunity to turn a soured customer into a raving fan.
Imagine if I had gotten a personal call from the owner—not the driver or the manager– saying, “Dr. Goldstein, I am soooo sorry this happened! Please apologize to your wife for me. It is totally unacceptable to me that she didn’t receive her flowers on such a special day. What a disappointment! What is worse is that you didn’t even hear the phone message from us until this morning. I’m just sick about it.” “Please allow us to make it up to you. If you will let us, we will not only deliver your flowers at whatever time you wish today but I want to offer you another flower arrangement on us the next time you want flowers. I know it can’t make up for yesterday but I hope you’ll let us do this for you.”
Had I heard that on the phone, I would have been impressed to say the least and, provided the flowers arrived on time, would have remembered how graciously and professionally they had handled the unfortunate glitch. I also would be inclined to tell the story to friends and probably recommend them to others. None of that good stuff happened…but it could have and it would have made a huge difference.
This example applies not just to retail stores but to all relationships. Glitches happen with couples, with friends, with people everywhere. How they are handled has everything to do with whether or not the relationship lasts. An apology accompanied by action and a commitment to a higher level of consciousness in the future makes forgiveness that much easier.
How about you? Have you ever had a bad situation handled so well that it made a raving fan out of you or brought you closer to someone? I’d love to hear about it.