Where have all the flow­ers gone?

Sunday Times - - NEWS -

“LOVE means never hav­ing to say you’re sorry.” It is an inane catch phrase from the 1970 movie Love Story that has been pil­lo­ried ever since.

An apol­ogy, when due, is al­ways wel­come, es­pe­cially if sin­cere. It is a sign of hu­mil­ity, which leads to for­give­ness and strength­ens re­la­tion­ships.

But there was not much love lost for Netflorist this past Valen­tine’s Day. The on­line flower and gift re­tailer’s fail­ure to deliver about 500 or­ders on the day led to a se­vere bash­ing on so­cial me­dia.

Cus­tomers’ anger was di­rected as much at the per­ceived lack of re­sponse to the non-de­liv­ery as the fail­ure it­self.

The first thing Netflorist man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Ryan Bacher pointed out to me was that 17 500 or­ders had been suc­cess­fully de­liv­ered that day.

Sug­gest­ing that thou­sands of cus­tomers were given great ser­vice is an un­der­stand­able re­sponse, but it is cer­tainly not sooth­ing to those who were left in the lurch.

Netflorist’s prob­lem ap­pears to have stemmed from a mas­sive in­crease in or­ders, up from 13 000 last year. But it was an in­crease the re­tailer had an­tic­i­pated. When it reached the 18 000-or­der mark at 2pm the day be­fore Valen­tine’s Day, it closed or­ders.

The com­pany, which em­ploys 200 people, hired 800 tem­po­rary em­ploy­ees for the day, and its rental car hire was greater than the ca­pac­ity at OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port for the same day.

So why did 500-odd re­cip­i­ents end up bro­ken-hearted on Fe­bru­ary 14?

Rea­sons var­ied, Bacher said, but they in­cluded a driver go­ing awol with 27 or­ders, 24 or­ders not be­ing cap­tured on the sys­tem ow­ing to server prob­lems, and an en­tire batch of roses be­ing sub-stan­dard. Swel­ter­ing heat across the coun­try

I would have pre­ferred a ded­i­cated hot­line for af­fected cus­tomers

also meant that many of the flow­ers that were de­liv­ered were wilted and chocolates melted.

“An ex­tra chal­lenge,” said Bacher, “was that it was Fri­day and people left their of­fices early, be­fore de­liv­er­ies were made.”

Why did Netflorist not post an im­me­di­ate apol­ogy on its web­site?

“That’s dif­fi­cult . . . [but] we sent out email apolo­gies the same night to all the cus­tomers where we’d messed up de­liv­er­ies,” said Bacher.

A few days af­ter Valen­tine’s Day, Netflorist’s Face­book page posted an apol­ogy say­ing that of 180 tem­po­rary driv­ers in­ter­viewed, it had passed 130 but only 20 had ar­rived on the day.

“If you have any queries, feel free to in­box us. Once again, we’re so sorry for the in­con­ve­nience and we’ll try our best to get you out of the dog box.”

I would have pre­ferred to have seen cus­tomers thanked for us­ing Netflorist, an ac­knowl­edge­ment of the fail­ure be­ing a “big les­son” for the com­pany, op­tions and pro­cesses to be fol­lowed for com­pen­sa­tion, and a ded­i­cated hot­line for af­fected cus­tomers, some of whom claim they have yet to be re­funded.

A good­will ges­ture for each “vic­tim”, per­haps a voucher to use on their next or­der, could have been of­fered.

And Netflorist should not have limited the of­fi­cial hand-wring­ing to Face­book.

Word of mouth has a far wider reach. So, too, should any apol­ogy.

Pic­ture: THINKSTOCK

BE MY VALEN­TINE: Un­like this woman, hun­dreds of people were left dis­ap­pointed af­ter on­line re­tailer Netflorist could not deliver all of its or­ders

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