On their busiest day of the year, the florist site Ready Flowers had a shocker. With dozens of customers upset their Valentines Day flowers didn’t arrive.
Their reaction was to stop answering their calls, as one Ready Flowers angry customer on the Whirlpoool website said;
Calling through to their 24/7 hotline was no good, all it told me (after 30 mins on hold) was a automated message saying it was valentine’s day (duh), that they were busy and that I should leave a message.
So on their one key day of the year, they didn’t have enough staff to meet demand.
Ready Flowers has been a success story expanding to 17 countries since being founded in 2005. The service is a modern version of the Interflora model where the company takes the order which they pass onto a local florist who creates the flower arrangement to Ready Flowers’ or Interflora’s specifications.
The risk for Ready Flowers is that the local florist isn’t very good and that’s where customer support and tight supplier management comes into place.
Which is clearly where they fell over on Valentines Day.
In a 2009 interview with the Financial Review that’s quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, Ready Flowers’ founder Thomas Hegarty claimed his success was due to good search-engine optimisation, online advertising, and landing pages for every delivery location.
Missing is the term “customer service” – in that interview Thomas went onto say, “We saw that we could add value by applying more efficient technology without needing a large number of people to run the business”.
This is the flaw in the web 2.0 business model. In the real world, businesses don’t run on remote control – mistakes are made, deadline missed and people do dumb things which the algorithm can’t handle.
Over the last thirty years, customer service has been seen as an unnecessary cost centre. This was fine in a world where automated, low margin and fast moving goods were seen as the business model to emulate.
If you can’t compete on price, it’s service that matters and this is where you’ll need more than a lost cost call centre and a well optimised website.