Case Study: How Fed-Ex Responded to a Customer’s Viral Video…With Its Own Video

by Mack Collier

It really is the doomsday scenario for a big brand, in this case, Fed-Ex.  One customer has a horrible experience with a delivery.  A computer monitor is ‘delivered’ when the Fed-Ex driver casually tosses the monitor over the customer’s gate.

Even though the customer was at home.

And the front door was wide open.

And the customer filmed the delivery.

And yes, he posted it on YouTube.

The video has been viewed over 8 million times by now, and was seen on numerous TV stations and shows.  Now if this was your company, how would you respond?  Would you respond?

To its credit, Fed-Ex responded 2 days later with its own video.

Here’s what I love about the video and the post on Fed-Ex’s blog:

1 – Fed-Ex admitted the problem and apologized for it immediately in the video.

2 – Fed-Ex detailed what was done to correct this problem.

3 – Fed-Ex detailed what will happen moving forward.

4 – Fed-Ex responded to the customer video with its own video.  Using the same tool as its customer.

 

Now, the original customer video and Fed-Ex’s response has been dissected on many other blogs in the last 3 months.  But I wanted to focus on the comments this post has generated.  A big reason why many companies do NOT want to use social media to make a response such as what Fed-Ex did here is because they are scared to death that it will simply draw attention to the company and make them a lightning-rod for detractors.

So far, Fed-Ex’s apology post has 181 comments, almost 120 comments more than the 2nd most commented-on post.

Here’s what I thought was interesting about the comments (and I read every freaking one to get these stats):

57% of the comments were positive.

25% of the comments were neutral.

But only 18% of the comments on this post were negative.

Does that surprise you?  It shouldn’t.  As often happens when a company responds appropriately in a crisis situation, Fed-Ex galvanized its employees and brand advocates with this post.  Remember that The Red Cross had a similar episode this time last year with its ‘rogue tweet’ about #gettingslizzard, and the organization’s timely and appropriate response rallied its brand advocates and actually sparked a rise in blood donations.

There is a very salient lesson here for companies about using social media: Participating in a conversation changes that conversation.  By creating a video response to the customer video, apologizing, and detailing exactly how the problem would be fixed, Fed-Ex changed the conversation that was currently happening around its brand.  Prior to this video, the conversation around the brand was decidedly negative and dominated by the customer’s video, because Fed-Ex hadn’t responded.

When they did, the conversation changed.  The company’s response was fast and appropriate, and that not only changed the opinion of the company from some observers, but it also served as motivation for customers and employees to come to defense of the brand.

Always remember this:  Social Media backlashes aren’t created by the initial trigger event (such as the customer’s video above), they are created by HOW the company responds.

Christin @ Joyful Mothering March 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Yes…awesome for putting this in front of us. I didn’t know there was a response video, but I did see the video of the delivery guy. Honestly, my first thought upon watching the delivery guy throw that package was similar to what the Fed Ex representative said in his video–it simply does not represent the whole of the company.
I have Fed Ex delivery to me pretty regularly and I have always been satisfied with their service.
Either way, I give Fed Ex kudos for being professional and addressing the situation. It is rare I see a company do that these days.

Dean March 19, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Mack,

First, a tip of the hat for the beneficial but no less painful act of going through all those comments. Kudos!

I agree, a one sided argument will almost always favor the aggrieved party and that the action or inaction of the other side will determine the final fall-out.

Another point I have tried to make with individuals and companies is that their brand will be made by them or in spite of them. Damage, like success, is an opportunity for a company to show what its made of through proactive management of its brand.

Thanks!
Dean

Mack Collier March 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Thank you Dean, it really did take over an hour to go through those comments ;)

What companies need to understand that even saying nothing in a crisis situation IS a response. So if you have to respond, why not make an attempt to put your best foot forward?

Dean March 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Mack,

I think what we run into today is still a fairly common mind set: ignore it and maybe it will disappear on its own. This has got to be a dying paradigm; surely, even before social media, events like the beating of Rodney King plainly indicated where media (of any stripe) was taking us.

Thanks for the opportunity to post here. Your blog is always fruit for the brain.

Dean

Greg Taylor March 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm

It’s a brilliant move by Fed-Ex to respond using the same medium as the customer used to voice a complaint. Although, carefully scripted I’m sure, by Corporate PR — the message was sent loud and clear and no further damage can occur to the brand.

Great share Mack!

Mack Collier March 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm

About the carefully-scripted part, there were a LOT of positive comments by employees. I do wonder if Fed-Ex encouraged employees to comment, and I think it’s probably a good thing if they did. Although to be fair, one of the most negative comments came from someone that said they were a Fed-Ex employee and had been for years. They said that when they first started working there a couple of decades ago that it was a great company, but conditions had gone downhill ever since!

Who knows if the employees were encouraged to participate, would definitely be interesting to know.

Stephen Kelly March 19, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Mack,

I approve fundamentally of every point you’ve made regarding brand responses to crises in social media. However, I’d also like to add why the FedEx response came off as 100% disingenuous to me, and note, this is the first I’ve heard of this story or seen these videos.

1. The storyteller’s persona (A VP who I don’t identify with at all. Looks like a “quick, let’s cover our ass” from the top down.)

2. The first page was filled with almost all employee comments (Initially I thought the same as you – sheesh, their employees are scoring points for positive comments. Some kinda brown-nosing)

3. The choice of speaker combined with the timing. (At the time the video was released Herman Cain was still big news. A lot of people did and didn’t like Herman Cain, but regardless, ask any American to name a strong voiced, C/VP level African American man at the time and they would’ve said who? Herman Cain. The very thought itself is divisive but may not be in a couple years. Wrong spokesperson at the wrong time.)

For these reasons I don’t think FedEx employees will have anymore oversight than previously. I think they probably did reprimand that employee, and things will be better in the short term perhaps, but in the long term? Nah, this company isn’t changing.

Mack Collier March 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Hey Stephen! Some interesting points, let me tell you what I think:

1 – Fed-Ex wanted to let a senior-level executive speak in the video to show how seriously the company takes this issue. If Joe Smith, proud Fed-Ex driver from Bloomingdale, Indiana had made the video, the almost universal outcry would have been that Fed-Ex wasn’t taking this situation seriously enough. This goes for any company facing a similar issue.

2 – You’re right about the comments, but one thing to remember is the comments are in reverse order, meaning the first comment you see is the most recent one left. BTW I love that the most recent comment asks where the apology is. Ummm….in the 1st 3 seconds of the video

3 – As for your opinion that picking an African-American speaker for the video was the wrong choice due to the fact that Herman Cain was in the news at the time, I can say you are the 1st person that I’ve heard make that connection.

Stephen Kelly March 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Hey Mack,

Thanks for responding!

1 – Admittedly a catch 22 in many situations, damned if you do or damned if you don’t. I still remember in the aftermath of the BP spill when people were commenting “if only BP had a trustworthy spokesperson in social media that could have mitigated the communication.” Clearly FedEx doesn’t have such a person. It raises a great question as to whether companies SHOULD have a person whose job it is to have the street cred to tackle crises management. I think a strong argument could be made for this.

2 – Absolutely, and that’s hilarious.

3 – If one normal person thinks it, then chances are plenty of others do too. Aside from some choice news sites, it is pretty unpopular (or risky?) to even inadvertently allude to race in any forum online. In this situation it has little to do with race and more to do with the human subconscious. I say car, you think Ford. I say tree, you see a pine. I say physically broad and successful African American man with a commanding voice at a major American company, you think Herman Cain.

It’s true though – sometimes people think of Volkswagon or maple trees. But I am at a loss to name an alternative to that last description (oh, except the FedEx guy ;)

Mack Collier March 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Stephen maybe I am the only person on the planet that missed it, but until you left this comment I never once made the Herman Cain connection to this video, and I first saw it the day it was posted. The thought never entered my head, but again, maybe I am the exception to the rule in this case.

Stephen Kelly March 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Actually, I don’t think you are – I think I am the exception. I would’ve made a different call, but – it seems to have worked out for FedEx, so they can’t be criticized too much.

The takeaways you outlined in your article are solid. Thanks for sharing!

Stephen Kelly March 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Mack,

This is my last update and then I’m going to let this one be. Over on YouTube the public response to the video is much different (predominantly negative), and I found 5 Herman Cain references in the short time I was there. I didn’t go through all the comments.

http://youtu.be/4ESU_PcqI38

Thanks again for the great blog post.

Mack Collier March 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm

It’s entirely possible I am completely in the minority here. I purposely avoid most political commentary/coverage, so that might be it.

But I think Santa Claus could post a video on The Joy of Christmas on YouTube and most of the comments it would get there would be negative ;)

Giri Fox March 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Very clever and appropriate use of social media.
Rare honesty and authenticity from a company, well done to Fedex.

Miriam Gomberg March 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I appreciate the fact that FedEx gave a genuine apology and took ownership of the incident. So often, a company will simply hide in plain sight hoping the problem will go away by itself.

In a strategy class I took, we a case study with a similar dilemma. IKEA had someone do an expose on child labor making their rugs in India. IKEA took it head on and accepted blame, which took the wind out of the fire. As it turned out, the guy made unsubstantiated claims that were later proven false. That is another good example of a classy company.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens next. Thanks for a great post. Miriam

Colin Finlay March 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm

A great post and true to the point that how an organization decides to respond to a crisis moment will determine the severity of the repercussions felt by the brand. Keep up the good work!

GOPINATH LINGAPPA April 2, 2012 at 12:02 am

It’s a nice case study, which explain that if the timely response is made to the complainant’s dissatisfied feelings / expressions, the organisation can convince the customer and retain him.

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