Building Brand Image: 2 Lessons

My adventure started when Wine.com sent me a special offer. I had ordered a couple cases from them last year. I drink a glass of red wine every night. At first, it was an attempt to reduce my blood pressure. Didn’t work. But I did discover wine enthusiasm. I’m now a wine geek, or at least a wanna-be wine geek. (Can you be a true wine geek on less than $15 a bottle?)

Since the New Year, I’ve been buying from a local wine shop. So Wine.com sent me an email offering an additional 10% off if I buy from them before April 11. Cool. They do have a different selection than the local wine shop, and variety is the spice of life. So I ordered a mixed case. They shipped it out on Friday, FedEx Ground.

Now, someone must sign for the package. This is Massachusetts law. Therefore, I had it shipped to my office location. This is a common practice. I’ve done it before. The order was scheduled to arrive on Monday. At about 5 PM, it still had not arrived. I checked the FedEx tracking information. It said, “Delivery exception: Customer not available or business closed.”

That’s not right. We’ve been here all day. Now, we had recently moved from another location. Did I get the address wrong? I double-checked the shipping address. It’s completely correct.

More importantly, what do I do to find out exactly what went wrong and to fix it? I searched the FedEx website for the answer to that question. I found nothing.

So I turned to Google, because Google knows everything. As it turns out, others have had the same sort of problems with FedEx.

I finally pieced together what might have happened. Monday was a bank holiday. And the delivery guy didn’t want to drive all the way out to Newton (where I work). And he probably wanted to get home in time to see the Red Sox, which is very important. And he saw that it was a business address, and he figured there was a 95% chance the business was closed for that day (which it wasn’t). So he lied and said he tried to deliver it but that no one was there. This might have been what happened.

Or it might not have been. Today is Tuesday, and FedEx’s web site again says “Delivery exception: Customer not available or business closed,” which is (to borrow from Guy Kawasaki) a whole lot o’ shitake.

There are two lessons here, both of which PR and marketing pros keep preaching. And both of which companies like FedEx apparently keep ignoring. But don’t you ignore these lessons! Your customers won’t forgive you as easily as they do FedEx, and you can’t afford to ride it out until you figure out what you did wrong. Here they are:

  1. You don’t control how your brand is perceived. Your customers do.
  2. Fancy ads don’t build a great brand. The single biggest thing you can do to build your brand is to make promises and keep them.

So apparently, according to their web site, FedEx will try once more, hopefully for real this time, to deliver my package. Then they’ll send the package back to Wine.com, who may or may not ship it to me and may or may not charge me a 25% return fee. Regardless, the message is clear and echoes throughout cyberspace: Use UPS, when it absolutely, positively has to get there.

-TimK

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