On Dec 19, 2011, a Youtube video was uploaded showing a FedEx Employee delivering a monitor by throwing it over the fence. It went viral. As I write this post it has been seen more than 5.7 Million times. Imagine the embarrassment of FedEx! I saw a picture of the incident in my local paper in Toronto. Here’s the video.
The company responded within 2 days with a video of their own, apologizing. Here are the elements of the apology
1. Speaker was a senior manager at FedEx: Mathew Thornton III, Senior VP, Federal Express, US Operations
2. Acknowledged the video on Youtube
3. Apologized on behalf of all the employees at FedEx
4. Expressed emotion (upset and embarrassed at the customer’s poor expereince
5. Re-asserted that the behavior violated FedEx values and culture. “It’s just not who we are”
6. Assures the audience that FedEx has met with the affected customer, resolved the issue and the customer is now satisfied.
7. Addressed the issue of the employee on two fronts.
a. Working within the company disciplinary policies, the employee is no longer working on the front line directly with customers. It is possible that union contracts do not allow for immediate firing. But the employee’s job has changed.
b. Reinforced how seriously they take a breach with customer satisfaction, such as this, as part of their employee policy.
8. Assures the audience that this behavior is not representative of the FedEx employees ( 290,000 team members ) worldwide.
9. Uses the opportunity to highlight the FedEx motto: “I will make every FedEx Experience outstanding”
10. Demonstrates what is being done to avoid this kind of situation in the future “Using it as a learning opportunity”, “Shared the video internally”
11. Brings up another company mantra: Every package is precious to, you, our customers. Notice that he speaks to the audience as if they are all his customers. Customers are not someone else. The VP recognizes that if we are not his customers right now, we might have been or we might be in the future.
Here’s the execution of that apology on Youtube. Notice it has only been seen about 300,000 times as of the writing of this post.
In the comments of the video, there is one entry that was telling. You never know the root cause of problems by looking at a video.
“…I have friends that work there and know the other side of the story. Like I said I’m not trying to justify what he did, but people can lose it you know? This guy had to keep getting off his route multiple multiple times because he was called to go back. The owner claiming “Ok we’re really home this time” and they wouldn’t be…”
So while the incident was not acceptable behaviour, was it only the driver who was at fault? How about the organization that sent him back over and over again? How about the policy of multiple deliveries? I know when I get a FedEx delivery, if I am not home, they leave a sticker and if the next day I am not home, I get to go pick up my package at FedEx’s depot. I have called FedEx when I came home and saw their delivery sticker but they would not turn around and send the driver back.
Any organization of hundreds of thousands of employees will have a few that don’t follow company policy and do things they shouldn’t, perhaps due to time pressure, personal problems, or other factors unknown to the public. And with the availability of security cameras and cell phone cameras, these incidents can and will be reported. This video went viral quickly and FedEx responded quickly and the key elements of the apology were well executed in the video.They could have done a better job with the description of the video
“Along with many of you, we’ve seen the video showing one of our couriers carelessly and improperly delivering a package the other day. As the leader of our pickup and delivery operations across America, I want you to know that I was upset, embarrassed, and very sorry for our customer’s poor experience. This goes directly against everything we have always taught our people and expect of them. It was just very disappointing.”
This might be a lesson learned from the fiasco of United Airlines where a song uploaded to Youtube went viral.
But only about 300,000 people saw the apology versus almost 6 million that saw the incident. That’s about 5%. Only 5% saw the apology. I am sure there were other activities that FedEx took to ensure its customers, and in particular, the contacts they have regularly with shipping managers, received additional information about this incident.
But this case study still points out how much damage a single incident can have on a company’s reputation. It reinforces the need for training of employees, particularly those facing customers and those who direct them.
What if your opinion. Did FedEx handle this crisis well?
PS. On Dec 22, 2011, another delivery firm, UPS had a similar issue with one of their drivers. There is a video but it didn’t go as viral as the Fed Ex one did. The next blog post will cover the UPS story.
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