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How to Use Social Media During a Crisis

For ProFlowers and Shari's Berries, the arrival of a winter storm on Valentine's Day could have been devastating to their delivery business. Here's how the two companies lessened the blow.

ProFlowers delivers more than a million bouquets of flowers for Valentine's Day. Its sister company, Shari's Berries, ships more than 5 million gourmet berries for the holiday. It's only one day, but it can make of break the companies' entire year. 

So when weather reports predicted the arrival of Winter Storm Pax over Cupid's favorite holiday this year, executives at ProFlowers and Shari's Berries knew they were facing a crisis. Anticipating that they would be unable to make thousands of their Valentine's Day deliveries, the two companies decided to turn to social media. Here are the important steps they took to maintain customer confidence during the unfortunately timed storm. 

Be Proactive

When the customer service teams at ProFlowers and Shari's Berries learned of the impending storm, they got ahead of the chatter on social media and preemptively sent an email to customers informing them that the weather might upset deliveries on the holiday. They also tweeted about the delivery situation:

 

The companies also offered customers the opportunity to take a full refund, or a replacement order and $20 toward their next purchase. 

"We wanted to let our customers know that we were thinking of them," says Amy Toosley, the director of public affairs and corporate relations at Provide-Commerce, the San Diego-based parent company of ProFlowers and Shari's Berries. 

Keep Communicating 

As soon as the storm hit, ProFlowers and Shari's Berries issued an apology to customers over email and social media and began monitoring Twitter and Facebook. They then responded to every customer who posted comments on those social networks, Toosley says. 

Provide-Commerce has customer service representatives that focus specifically on social media interactions with customers. Before the storm, the company expanded the social media team and had 15 people dedicated to responding to customers during and after the holiday, Toosley says. 

"We kept monitoring our communications in real time. We kept communicating--not only reactively responding to each and every person on social media but we also proactively communicated," she adds.  Every couple of hours the companies sent out updates about the status of their delivery service. 

Be Human

"We tried to really humanize our responses just to show that we are people too and understood that [customers'] Valentine's Days might have been a disappointment because of the storm and not getting their flowers or dipped berries,"  Toosley says. 

Initially, there was a great deal of negative sentiment on social media about ProFlowers and Shari's Berries. By February 18th, however, enough issues had been resolved that positive sentiment for ProFlowers outpaced the negative, according to Toosley. She says Shari's Berries received twice as many positive comments as negative comments starting on February 15th. 

"We are hoping that we have created some brand loyalty out of the situation," Toosley says. She stresses that ProFlowers and Shari's Berries were able to respond to winter storm Pax because they had processes and leadership in place before it hit.

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