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Gini Dietrich

FedEx Customer Video Turned Good PR

By: Gini Dietrich | January 11, 2012 | 
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Let’s talk about a good response to a customer service, turned social media, crisis, shall we?

During the holidays, a video of a FedEx delivery man threw a computer monitor over a gate and onto the lawn of the customer’s lawn.

The scary thing is it’s actually in a computer monitor box, not a FedEx box, so he knew it was fragile. He didn’t try to open the gate or ring the bell. He just threw it over the gate. And it broke.

The person who lives in that house must have the same “neighborly” issues we have because he has a security camera on the front gate. And the “delivery” was captured on video.

Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Clearly this is not a PR or social media crisis. It is a customer service crisis. But, like we talked about with Papa John’s and Boners BBQ yesterday, it was turned into a PR crisis when the customer posted the video on YouTube (which got five million views in five days).

What did FedEx do, in return?

They did NOT ignore the video. They did NOT ignore the crisis. They did NOT stick their heads in the sand and pretend the video (that now has nine million views) doesn’t exist.

They took to YouTube and created their own video. Just like Domino’s did in 2008 when a YouTube video of a franchisee’s employees sneezing and spitting in food went viral.

In a blog post accompanying an embedded version of their video, Matthew Thornton, III, senior VP of  FedEx Express U.S. Operations, said:

As the leader of our pickup and delivery operations across America, I want you to know that I was upset, embarrassed, and very sorry for our customer’s poor experience. This goes directly against everything we have always taught our people and expect of them. It was just very disappointing.

He goes on to describe what they did for the customer and how they’re using the video in employee training to make sure these kinds of things don’t happen.

Here is the video of the Thornton’s apology.

Customers and employees weighed in on the blog post, most citing positive examples or stories about being grateful for working at FedEx.

The lesson? Always answer with a real apology. Not a “I’m sorry, but…” apology, but a real one. And answer it on the same social network where the crisis is happening.

FedEx did this exactly right. And in the right amount of time. They described the issue, said what had been resolved and how they were using this as a lesson going forward, and apologized.

Every, single one of us makes mistakes. It’s in how we handle them that is remembered.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

83 comments
Entrepreneurs Blog
Entrepreneurs Blog

This could be a good marketing strategy in the future. Using bad media publication into a something positive for company and employees.

CarolynTran29
CarolynTran29

Very admirable, and may I add ingenious! I love it when a company chooses to take the smarter and less cowardly path, by addressing AND resolving the issue. Other businesses should use the FedEx PR flip as a reference during their PR crisis. Of course a company's failure will always be highlighted and quickly ridiculed by the online community; however, how they choose to address it will also reflect their image. By quickly resolving the issue, they have managed to turn an otherwise catastrophe into a minor blemish. Love it!

rlhorne
rlhorne

Thanks Gini Dietrich for writing a very objective and insightful blog regarding this situation. I personally appreciate your perspective and the various other insightful and productive comments shared throughout.

Renee Horne, @rlhorne

Director, Digital & Social Media Engagement @FedEx

beastoftraal
beastoftraal

I concur with Ryan's pov - it is expected that brands respond in as real-time as possible to such issues. Many brands do it, many don't (haven't evolved), but increasingly, brands need to stand out when they respond. With Domino's and now Fed-Ex, both responses look very, very scripted. They seem more like media-centered responses, but in formats that are more common in social media. Had written about it earlier too, in my blog, while clearly appreciating the fact that Fed-Ex did at leas the basics right.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

Now this is a great, postive example of PR gone right. Thanks for blogging about the good stuff too...

CourtV
CourtV

Well said, @ginidietrich and well done to FedEx. It's nice to see large corporations learning from other's mistakes and successes. Also nice to see PR perhaps getting some credit for these positive things ;)

ryancox
ryancox

This is pretty hilarious (that he got caught) and also pretty appalling (that he would think throwing a computer of a fence was alright). He HAD to of known that it was going to come back on him. There is no way it didn't cause some kind of damage. I would love to know what he was thinking. My brain doesn't work that way, so I have no way of determining it without his help.

With that said, great response from FedEx. *HOWEVER* -- I would of enjoyed a more personable response. I mean, in front of a FedEx background, reading a script -- it was WAY MORE than most companies would do, and I'm sure the person was well compensated ... but STILL, I would of just loved a much more down to earth, and personal "Hey, we f* up."

That is the kind of human to human connection that really makes me remember a company and how they handled something.

(Again, FedEx still gets an A- from me. In order to get an A+, those would be my own stipulations.)

ideabloke
ideabloke

My brother works for FedEx, so I hear these stories every now and so often. I'm sure that something like this has been happening since the dawn of free enterprise across virtually every industry.

With more people embracing social media, businesses have an opportunity (and motivation!) to respond to 'what needs fixing' in a timely manner. On the flip side, consumers have virtually a much better platform to air legitimate grievances with a much better chance of resolution.

Bravo on the post, Gini!

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

Woohoo...a good example. Bad customer service, going viral on Social Media or in the news, isnt it every companies worst nightmare? But, hey crap happens, and it happens to good firms not just bad. Sure, would we rather our clients not hear about it when we seriously step in it - of course. But, its 2012, reality is its tough to near impossible to hide. So, I applaud FedEx for taking the route they did. They didnt make excuses or try to hide. They owned up, offered a sincere apology as well as their plan to address the issue and prevent from ever happening again!

TheJackB
TheJackB

A simple heart felt apology goes a long way. Most people are reasonable and will listen. This was so very smart on their part. You can guarantee that this video will be used over and over again.

Customers will see it now and it will come up later in classrooms and news stories. I bet that stupid move on the part of the driver will end up generating new business for them just because of their response to it.

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith

So glad you posted this. Not only do I think it addressed the crisis of the moment, but the response left me with an even more favorable impression of FedEx and its corporate culture than I had prior to the Great Monitor Toss. That's a huge win for their corporate communications.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

LOVE this post Gini, and the fact that we ARE talking about positive PR. Way to go FedEx... loved the genuine voice they used.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

I dunno live in a gated house where the Fed Ex guy can't deliver something I am ok with the toss. Just have it land on the grass is all.

But what the guy should of done is leave a note saying they can pick up their delivery at the Fed Ex depot because seriously that is always a huge pain in the butt. Make them get in the bently and drive to grab their delivery. Make them regret not sending their personal assistant to Best Buy.

As for the response yes they did good Gini. I bet Fed Ex reads Spin Sucks!

jodykoehler
jodykoehler

@ginidietrich Still trying to make a difference here in Holland Gini ;) Will contact you soon btw to share a thought. Think you'll like it!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@ElissaFreeman It's kind of interesting to look at the stats on this as compared to the blog post about Boners BBQ. Let's just say this one isn't as popular. People say they want the good stuff, but there is no action when they get it. I'm going to test it a few other ways (a good case study on a higher traffic day, for instance), but overall people like the bad stuff more.

GosiaAntkowski
GosiaAntkowski

@ginidietrich YES! It's a good case study to share with clients and our team here. We need more examples of good PR to learn from!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@sydcon_mktg I also like that they kept the privacy of the employee and said he's not working with customers right now. It says, "We're taking care of this, but it's really none of your business and you don't have a say in whether or not we fire him." I appreciate that...especially as a business owner.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@TheJackB You're so right. I love that it's being used in training, too. So smart.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@HowieG The customer said his front door was open and there is a bell on the gate. The delivery driver didn't even attempt to go inside. I don't get it.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

btw almost half a million views. Very impressive!

JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

@ginidietrich@ElissaFreeman People may like the bad stuff more, but that doesn't mean they won't remember the good stuff when we share it. This is a perception issue for PR that will only change over time if we start working more of the good stuff in as well. And I think this is a PR issue. Just like the Papa John's receipt is. Anything that effects brand perception is a PR issue.

I think people don't comment as much on the positive stuff because we like to gossip and criticize. And there's no inclination for either here. But I still think people can absorb it, no?

DavidZandueta
DavidZandueta

"What's disappointing to me are the customers who take advantage of social media just to get free stuff."

@ginidietrich - Double-edged sword. Funnily, though, these things have a way of working themselves out in the long run.

ryancox
ryancox

@ginidietrich@ideabloke To be perfectly honest Gini -- I had a company refund a shake product I sent back and didn't send back the right way...before my product got there. And in the back of my mind, for about a *split* second I said to myself, "I could do that next month and get another $125." Again -- if I'm being 110% honest, I did see a 'free money' scenario present itself, but its nothing I'd ever try. My conscious always has me thinking, "I'd be the one that got caught." And even if I didn't, it'd burn me until I made it right.

DavidZandueta
DavidZandueta

@ginidietrich@sydcon_mktg Hi there. First time to finally comment on this blog after especially reading this story. :)

Personally, I also liked that response because they're also not saying they "fired" the person. I've seen many people immediately (and mercilessly?) ask for the employee's head after making what seems to be a single, unintended mistake. It's not like every mistake warrants being fired or worse, though that depends on the situation at hand.

JuliaStewartPR
JuliaStewartPR

@ginidietrich@HowieG I'm a huge fan of apologies, showing folks you've got a human side typically always helps a situation. (Tho I gotta say, the guy I used to work with who started every conversation with "I'm sorry to bother you..." DID start to bother me -- but that's another story.) BTW Here at Clarity's world headquarters (aka home) my experience is that FedEx, UPS and USPS just drop and run, they don't even ring the bell (though in my case nothing breaks as I took the pesky gate out).

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

@ginidietrich @jgoldsborough I think as a whole we are attuned to provide more provocative responses to negative stories; learning how to create meaningful conversation around those good PR examples is something we all need to learn to do. I also believe that as PR pros, we are reluctant to be cheerleaders for our own stuff. If we don't toot our own horn about our industry's successes, then who will?

ideabloke
ideabloke

@ryancox@ginidietrich Wow, never really given that much thought. I mean about abusing SoMe for the free stuff. Apparently I'm not that sophisticated! :p

Trackbacks

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  12. […] lessons professionals can use in their daily lives, it works well. I tested this theory with how FedEx handled a customer service crisis using video and it’s our third most popular blog post this month. That said, when I wrote […]

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  14. […] Dietrich, G. (2012, January 11). FedEx Customer Video Turned Good PR. In spinsucks. Retrieved October 18, 2014, from http://spinsucks.com/communication/fedex-customer-video-turned-good-pr/ […]