1-800-FLOWERS commits the cardinal sin – again

Building a customer relationship starts not with CRM but with a good product or service, and the ability to deliver it. That’s the foundation of your business. If you fail at that foundational aspect of your business, no CRM program’s going to save you.

That said, I have just identified a company that is on its way to oblivion. I just got off the phone with 1-800-FLOWERS. Like a lot of exceptionally lazy men, I went to them as a source for a Valentines’ Day gift for my wife. Why? That’s a really good question.

The company called to inform me that my flowers couldn’t be delivered today – the day I asked for delivery, and the day for which delivery was confirmed when I placed the order. The agent said their florists were overloaded and he offered to deliver it on Monday. Clearly, the agent has never been married, since a Valentine’s gift delivered four days late would probably have the exact opposite effect of what was intended.

This year, I’m the person to blame. You see, the exact same thing happened last year – 1-800-FLOWERS (and others in the floral industry) had a complete process failure last year and thousands of orders were not delivered. Mine was among them.

It couldn’t happen again, right? And so I ordered. And so I was hosed again.

This year, at least I got a warning call. So, what 1-800-FLOWERS learned was that they should at least not leave gift-givers in the dark to be given the cold shoulder on the evening of Feb. 14, when the objects of the affections were left feeling as though they had simply been forgotten.

What could they have learned instead? How about this: figure out the capacity of your subcontractors. Know what florists can deliver; if you reach capacity, stop taking orders. You should be able to ascertain that ahead of time with a minor amount of outreach to your subcontractors. Not doing so suggests you really don’t care about satisfying customer orders.

Here’s another thing they should have learned: there’s a massive revenue effect a failure like this brings. Valentine’s Day attracts a lot of people who are not in the habit of regularly sending flowers. Not only has the company lost the once-a-year money from these customers, they’ve chased them  off from future flower purchases.

Their website also has problems; it refused to accept any credit cards (giving me an “INVALID CREDIT CARD NUMBER” message that was simply wrong; the numbers I entered were correct, and I checked it on all three cards I tried to use) and I was forced to use PayPal instead.

These things are not directly related to 1-800-FLOWERS’ CRM program; those folks may be doing a great job. But from a CRM standpoint, 1-800-FLOWERS has committed the fatal sin:  the most elemental and basic problem of not being able to deliver what it promised. If your product is frabbed up or your ability to deliver products to your customers is in shambles, it doesn’t matter what else you do to build customer relationships. You will demonstrate that you can’t deliver and you will force customers to look for alternatives.

–Chris Bucholtz