FedEx’s Social Media Nightmare Before Christmas

Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity. While it’s good to have people talking about you, a negative comment on social media has the power to quickly damage your brand’s reputation.

Before Social Media

Prior to social media marketing, companies had time to react to situations that called for crisis management. For instance, they could pull their TV commercial or retract an entire newspaper article if they felt it was being poorly received without much backlash. Sure, people could record these commercials or save these articles, but there really was no way for them to quickly share this information with others.

Social media, however, makes things more permanent, and is therefore, harder for companies to control. All it takes is for one of your customers to take a screenshot of something you posted or upload an incriminating video and then share it with their followers to make your social media faux pas go viral.

FedEx’s Blunder

In Dec. 2011, FedEx came under social media attack after YouTube user goobie55 uploaded a video that showed a FedEx delivery man throwing the Samsung computer monitor he ordered over his fence to deliver it to him. Although the customer was home at the time, the delivery driver never bothered to knock or ring the doorbell to alert him of his package; instead, he chose to toss it. After opening his monitor, the customer noticed that it was broken and needed to be replaced. Thanks to his well-placed security security camera, he was able to express his disappointment with FedEx on YouTube. Goobie55’s video, which received more than one million views in an approximately 24-hour time span, prompted other FedEx customers to discuss their negative experiences with the Memphis-based shipping company.

It was time for FedEx to do some damage control.

FedEx Responds

After the video was posted, FedEx Senior Communications Specialist Shea Leordeanu stated “All of us here at FedEx have seen the video and quite frankly we were shocked.” Two days later, on Dec. 21, FedEx apologized via their own YouTube video. In it, Senior Vice President of U.S. Operations Matthew Thornton apologized on behalf of his entire company for the actions of their reckless delivery driver. “I am upset and embarrassed for our customer’s poor experience,” he said. Thornton went on to explain that they had met with the customer, who had accepted the company’s apology and is now satisfied. They also announced that they were taking disciplinary action against the driver.

While this video went against FedEx’s purple promise, which is to make every FedEx experience outstanding, the company decided to use it as a learning opportunity. They shared the video internally to remind their employees of the importance of delivering packages and to demonstrate that actions like this are totally unacceptable. They also incorporated it into their training programs “as a constant reminder of the importance of earning — and keeping — your trust with every single delivery.” Additionally, the FedEx communications team also wrote a blog post titled, “Absolutely, Positively Unacceptable,” to expand on their apology video.

My Take On It

I actually really liked the way FedEx handled its negative publicity. The company took note of the viral video; issued a sincere, well-written apology, both on YouTube and on its site’s blog, in which it stated that it would use this video to prevent future incidents; made sure the customer whose monitor was damaged was satisfied; and announced that it would be taking disciplinary action against the reckless delivery driver. Customers took note of the company’s response and voiced their approval of the way it handled things in the blog comments.

That being said, there are a few things I would’ve done differently. First of all, while I appreciated FedEx’s response, I felt that it was too delayed. The video was posted on Dec. 19, and it wasn’t until Dec. 21 that FedEx issued their official apology. In the social media world, two days can seem like an eternity. Additionally, while the negative publicity took place on YouTube, I would’ve liked to have seen the company post a short apology to their Twitter as well as share a link to their YouTube video and blog post on their Facebook wall, as this would’ve increased the changes of having their message reach as many FedEx customers as possible. Finally, I wasn’t able to find any follow-up articles from FedEx about how this video had changed the way they do business. So even though they said they were going to incorporate it in their training programs, I would’ve liked to have seen a follow-up blog post about how doing so had had a positive impact on their employees and the company overall.

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