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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.




2 responses to “How to Turn a Disappointed Valentine’s Day Customer into a Raving Fan”

  1. You sure gave the local florist every chance to make it up to you. Since you got very little satisfaction from them, here’s an idea. Since you were entitled to mileage points from the online flower company from whom you ordered, tell them you could be turned into a “raving fan” if they tripled (or quadrupled!) the amount of mileage to which you were originally entitled. And to sweeten the deal for them, the local florist could forget the “free” flowers for some upcoming event. Never hurts to ask! And, if it works, feel free to take us on some upcoming trip with all the additional mileage. (As I said, it never hurts to ask.)

  2. Andy Hughes says:

    Over 10 years ago I was in charge of an in-house print shop where I work, and we also had a copier that we relied on for smaller runs. We had some service problems with the copier and it was frustrating to me as our “customers” were not getting their print jobs on time due to the machine being down a lot. I complained several times to the service tech, but nothing seemed to get better. I was surprised when the next week the service manager for the copier company arrived in person and said to me. “Mr. Hughes, I see that the copier we sold you has been down more than I like, and we don’t seem to have been able to keep it running for you. I’ll have a new one delivered tomorrow to replace it.” I was stunned and in disbelief that they didn’t try to sell me a new one, and thought there was no way they would deliver on the next day promise. To my surprise, the new machine arrived, and worked like a charm… we were back to delivering print jobs in a timely fashion. Needless to say, when we eventually shut down our print shop and bought 13 large distributed copiers to do the work in the office areas, we bought from that company, and have continued over the years to get the same great service we got then. We plan to buy 12 new machines worth over $100,000 from them this year, because I know that if the people I serve have a problem that can’t be fixed, the company will make it right. They looked from the customers point of view and saw my needs, and while it might have cost them in the short run, they made a long term gain and a loyal customer.

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