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It’s been exactly one week since Mother’s Day, a day when we’re expected to come up with a tangible gesture that shows our mums just how much we appreciate them, as opposed to filing such sentiments under the ‘goes without saying’ category like usual. Seeing this as an opportunity to develop the skills of innovation and creativity that are so vital for a PR practitioner, I opted for a pretty radical and unconventional choice…a bunch of flowers.

To be fair, my mum absolutely loves getting a nice bouquet of posies no matter what the occasion, so I feel I can be forgiven for taking what was arguably the safest, most predictable route possible. Moreover, I definitely was not the only one to do so, which leads me seamlessly onto the topic at hand. The other day I happened to stumble across a Tweet that one of my friends had sent to Interflora. I’ve never been done for plagiarism and I don’t intend to start now so I’m paraphrasing here, but she basically expressed her disappointment at the fact that the flowers she ordered looked drastically different in person from what was advertised on the Interflora website. Pictorial evidence (shown below) was also provided. Out of curiosity, I clicked through to Interflora’s Twitter page (@InterfloraUK), and was greeted with a sea of ‘sincerely’ apologetic Tweets from the organisation, addressed to an apparently never-ending list of disgruntled customers.

(Image credit: Twitter)

Now, in the interest of fairness, it should be noted that Interflora did well in acknowledging and addressing the issue. Twitter, when used correctly, is a great way to develop and maintain two-way communication between an organisation and its publics. Pretty much every other social media platform is equally effective here, too. Encouraging this kind of open dialogue is a key aspect of reputation management, and Interflora could well have been left even worse off had they simply ignored the complaints and let the ill will fester.

That being said, as a potential customer, seeing nothing put apologies to current customers for what are essentially Interflora’s shortcomings in providing the service they advertise is a massive turn-off. Sure, utilising social media to address customers directly and attempt to improve consumer relations is a positive thing. But when it’s the only thing you have time to do on there, it suggests that there’s a much more integral problem relating to your product/service that needs to be resolved before you can start to build (or re-build) your reputation.

Dubious strapline, anyone?

Dubious strapline, anyone?

(Image credit: http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/)

That’s the Catch 22 that social media represents for an organisation, I guess. On the one hand, providing you manage to keep your customers/clients happy, it allows them to publically gush about how wonderful you are, how pleased they are with whatever they’ve gotten out of the deal, and how much they’re looking forward to doing business with you again. On the other, the instantaneous and public nature of Tweets and Facebook posts can lead to disaster if customer dissatisfaction ever becomes a recurring issue. Just ask the poor folks at Interflora.