Gini Dietrich

FedEx Customer Video Turned Good PR

By: Gini Dietrich | January 11, 2012 | 

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, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • OMG, I can’t believe I’m actually the first person to comment! You know what struck me the most about the FedEx video? Even though Mr. Thornton was clearly reading from a script (or maybe teleprompter, I imagine they have the bucks for that), it was well-scripted and you could tell he meant it. And also that he talked about internal education because that is key.

    I was at FedEx the other day, as it happens, after spending 1.5 hours at my local post office (I had some packages to send out, including to you!… and just couldn’t afford to FedEx them all). The post office left me frazzled… a couple of packages were international, and they first gave me the wrong boxes, then the wrong form, kept sending me back to fill out other stuff, and by the end of it I was tempted to just throw my hands up and give up. But anyway, I stuck with it, and then went off to FedEx to return a shipment. The FedEx guy didn’t just accept my package, when he saw I was having trouble with the tape (hate that sticky mailing tape), he said, “Let me do that for you,” and took care of everything.

    That is how you treat customers if you want them to come back.

    • ginidietrich

      @Shonali Oh do not even get me started on the post office. Did you know you can leave the country with a passport, but you can’t rent a post office box with one? Why? Because those are the rules.

      Back to FedEx. Yes, he was scripted and polished. Video isn’t something he does every day. But he got out there, he was compassionate, and you could tell he really was sorry. That’s very, very key.

      • @ginidietrich I didn’t know that about the passport. That’s crazy. What do they want to see… a driver license?

        • jenzings

          That’s utterly bizarre if only for the reason that you can apply for a passport…*at the post office.* /headdesk/ @Shonali @ginidietrich

        • ginidietrich

          @Shonali They needed two pieces of ID. One could be a driver’s license. The other had to be a voter registration card, your lease or mortgage, or insurance. #superpainful

        • ginidietrich

          @jenzings Seriously.

  • RenommeGroup

    @ginidietrich great example on how to turn the situation around! Unfortunately not all see the opportunities, tho… #PR #FedEx

    • ginidietrich

      @RenommeGroup I know. We talked about some bad ones yesterday. I figured it was time to highlight a good one.

      • RenommeGroup

        @ginidietrich hear hear! the Boners BBQ case made our entire PR dept cringe! It is good to see some good examples.

        • ginidietrich

          @RenommeGroup I just don’t understand people. Sigh…

  • Yes! I was just talking this morning about how everyone screws up, and the thing that endears us to our customers is when we actually own up and make it right.

    No one expects perfection. We WANT it, but we don’t expect it. But we DO expect people to say “sorry” – and mean it – and clean up the mess they leave behind.

    • ginidietrich

      @lisarobbinyoung It’s so funny how “I’m sorry” completely diffuses a situation. Yet we get defensive and forget to say it. And then we have a huge issue on our hands.

      • @ginidietrich One thing I’m not too proud to do is say “I’m sorry.” I do it all the time. It’s so much better than “Excuse Me” (which I do use, but not in a situation that calls for an apology, and I think far too many people do that). @lisarobbinyoung

        • jenzings

          Gini–building on my retail experience that I relayed yesterday, when I did work in customer service and a customer had a problem, the first thing I did was say “I’m sorry.” Then, depending on the situation, it was followed with either “here’s what we’d like to do to make it right” or “what can we do to make this right?”

          The amazing thing is people are so accustomed to push-back that this completely disarms them. Which frankly is somewhat telling about the way most businesses view customer problems.


        • ginidietrich

          @jenzings You’re right – it totally disarms people.

      • @ginidietrich@lisarobbinyoung And don’t you just love it when someone says “I’m sorry, but…” or “yes, but…” In my books, this was a good example of an apology, no if’s, and’s or but’s.

  • JodiEchakowitz

    Thanks for posting this, Gini. It’s a good reminder for everyone that an apology has to be sincere, and free of excuses. I only wish that there were more examples of great responses to poor customer service so that organizations can learn from them. There almost needs to be a single blog that businesses can refer to, with examples of good and bad.

    • ginidietrich

      @JodiEchakowitz I’m going to be featuring more good here, but they’re not very easy to find.

      • @ginidietrich@JodiEchakowitz I’m making it my mission this year to find great examples of customer service, leadership and social media, and then talk about them. But you’re right, they are very hard to find.

        I am so glad this incident turned out well for FedEx but it doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve used them loyally for the 10+ years I’ve had my business because they are the only courier service I trust. Plus, the delivery folks are always helpful and cheerful (even when they have to carry heavy boxes into the basement).

  • I think your last sentence is the key: we DO all make mistakes. But do we ignore them? Cover them up? Make excuses? Or own them, address them, and fix things?

    Clearly, FedEx handled this well. It’s amazing how this one incident can have legs and really tarnish a brand’s reputation. But we need to be ready for that. Quite frankly, in yesterday’s post about Papa John’s, I was surprised at how many people said they would never eat at Papa John’s again, when clearly this was an insensitive act by one low-level employee at one franchise.

    I’m not optimistic, but I hope that we as consumers can someday understand the difference between the actions of one employee vs. the actions of a brand/company (Boners BBQ). But, we can’t wait for that to happen, and while we need to instill the proper culture within our businesses, we need to be prepared to handle these things when they do happen on the micro-level.

    • ginidietrich

      @KenMueller Like you, I was pretty surprised to hear that, too. It’s pretty clear it was one kid who wasn’t raised well. Which isn’t the fault of Papa John’s…though now they have to do something about it.

  • It’s about flippin’ time there’s a decent example of a corporation paying attention with a swift counter action. Way to go FedEx.

    • @Soulati | PR another great example of responding was Taco Bell last year. they did an amazing job and really silenced their critics.

      on the other side, Dennis Kucinich really blew it in his situation around the same time.

      • ginidietrich

        @KenMueller@Soulati | PR I don’t remember the Taco Bell one. I’ll have to look for it.

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  • Bravo FedEx… it’s great to find a positive example of how to handle a bad situation.

    Of course, I love to see them using a video as well. I’m always surprised when companies respond to a negative video using only text. It just seems weird.

    My only suggestion to FedEx to have improved things even more would have been to ditch the script. I’m a big fan of having an outline to work from but then speaking from the heart. What you give up in terms of controlling the exact message, you get back in sincerity.

    –Tony Gnau

    • ginidietrich

      @T60Productions Companies should always use the medium where the crisis is flaring. In this case it was video. They handled it extremely well.

  • ginidietrich

    @acraKA Finally a good one!

    • acraKA

      @ginidietrich agreed! That video is unreal.

  • ginidietrich

    @britt_thomas A very good job

  • ginidietrich

    @DKS_Systems It IS refreshing, isn’t it?

    • DKS_Systems

      @ginidietrich Yes! So used to seeing “big brands” brush problems under the rug. LOVE reading about companies being authentic and sincere.

  • 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!

    • btw almost half a million views. Very impressive!

    • ginidietrich

      @HowieSPM 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.

      • @ginidietrich@HowieSPM and that’s where we have to decide whether we believe the customer. But regardless, and while I don’t live behind a gate, FEdEx and UPS always put the package on my porch, in the door if it’s small enough, and then ring the doorbell.

        • @ginidietrich@HowieSPM and while we fault companies for putting their spin on things, I think a lot of these customer complaints involve spin as well…

      • @ginidietrich@HowieSPM Plus – the box is clearly a monitor!!!

      • JuliaStewartPR

        @ginidietrich@HowieSPM 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).

        • ginidietrich

          @JuliaStewartPR@HowieSPM It’s a darn shame you had to remove the gate to make it convenient for deliveries.

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

    • ginidietrich

      @AmyMccTobin I thought it was great too! Though I agree with @T60Productions they should do this stuff unscripted. But it’s a great step in the right direction.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • ginidietrich

      @MimiMeredith The Great Monitor Toss. LOL!

  • 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.

    • ginidietrich

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

  • 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!

    • ginidietrich

      @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.

      • 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.

        • ginidietrich

          @DavidZandueta People asked for the guy’s head, but I love that they said he is allowed privacy and wouldn’t say what kind of discipline they were giving him. I really respect that, too.

  • I once heard the difference between responding and reacting are critical to great business. If I take a medication and ‘react’, I get hives. If I take a medication and respond, I get better.

    Seems to me Fed-EX’s response made them better.Thanks for the great reminder Gini!

    Michael Besson

    • ginidietrich

      @Michael Besson That’s a GREAT analogy!

      • They’re fewer are farther between, the older i get 🙂 @ginidietrich

        • ginidietrich

          @Michael Besson LOL! I won’t tell anyone.

  • ginidietrich

    @GosiaAntkowski Good one, isn’t it?

    • 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!

    • 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

    @GosiaAntkowski Good one, isn’t it?

  • ginidietrich

    @TylerOrchard LOL

  • ginidietrich

    @TylerOrchard LOL

  • 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!

    • ginidietrich

      @ideabloke Totally agree on both sides of the coin. What’s disappointing to me are the customers who take advantage of social media just to get free stuff.

      • 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.

        • 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

      • 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.

  • ideabloke

    @melgallant Thanks for the RT, Melany! Hope you’re enjoying a phenomenal Wednesday! @SpinSucks

  • ginidietrich

    @sacevero The great response part

  • 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.)

    • ginidietrich

      @ryancox I agree completely, but I think this is a very good first step. Perhaps next time it won’t be scripted.

  • 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 😉

    • ginidietrich

      @CourtV Exactly! We deserve some props.

  • ElissaFreeman

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

    • ginidietrich

      @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.

      • @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?

        • 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?

  • 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.

    • ginidietrich

      @beastoftraal I agree. I would like to see them get to a point that they’re less polished. But I’ll definitely take this is a great first step!

  • 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

    • ginidietrich

      @rlhorne Thanks for stopping by, Renee! It’s not often we see stories of how well companies handle themselves in a crisis like this. Very well done!

  • ginidietrich

    @jodykoehler Hey Jody! What’s new?

    • 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

        @jodykoehler Oh I can’t wait to hear it!

  • ginidietrich

    @JGoldsborough 🙂

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  • patmrhoads

    @BrookeUSC Thanks for the RT Brooke!

  • 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!

    • ginidietrich

      @CarolynTran29 I love it, too! I especially appreciate that they won’t say what they’re doing to the employee. Because it’s none of our business. Thanks for hanging out on Spin Sucks today!

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