I’m really glad that I don’t manage social media for LOFT and Ann Taylor stores (note: in the interest of disclosure, I did offer them my services yesterday). On Sunday they announced a huge Cyber Monday sale. They often have online-only discounts…or should I say they often ANNOUNCE online-only discounts. Time and time again the brands’ sites crash in the middle of the one-day-only or hours-only sales. Seriously. This has happened so many times I don’t even bother to shop their online sales anymore. And I LOVE this brand!
Monday was no exception, unfortunately. When I got the reminder email Monday morning, I decided to check their Facebook page. Already they were posting apologies for the site being down on both the Ann Taylor and LOFT pages. This was before 9:00am CST!!
I can’t feel sorry for the brand any longer. I understand that every now and then a brand is going to have site issues during a big sale. But when this happens EVERY time, the brands’ decision-makers just simply aren’t getting it. How can they allow this to continue? Especially in the age of social media when your disgruntled customers can post their angry ‘I’m never shopping your store again’ (or worse: ‘You’ve lost my trust’) posts on Facebook and Twitter for all the world to see! It’s unreal that they haven’t taken extreme measures (many sales ago) to permanently correct this problem. If I were the CEO I’d invest in the largest servers (plural) and hire the absolute best IT people in the US. Whatever it takes.
But I digress…
What prompted this post was not only frustration with Ann Taylor’s incredibly unstable websites, but also my empathy for their social media team. I can only imagine how they must dread coming into the office on the morning of an online sale.
That being said, the social media team surely could’ve done more for their angry customers besides their ‘Sorry for the inconvenience. Thanks for your patience.’ posts. To be fair, they also offered to honor today’s online-only discount in stores. A couple of problems with that, though. Many people don’t have stores in their area, can’t get to a store, don’t want to go to a store, etc. But the two biggest problems with that offer is that several stores didn’t get the memo and wouldn’t honor the discount (some customers even complained that the sales team treated as if they were lying )…and, oh, this was Cyber Monday! Um, yeah. Shopping online was sort of the point.
As a business owner, I’d have found a way to offer those disgruntled customers an even larger discount when (if?) the site was back up. That didn’t happen – not yet, anyway. The social media team simply attempted to placate the angriest complaints while ignoring hundreds of others, I can only assume that – once again – the decision-makers are not giving the social media team anything to work with. The social media managers obviously aren’t in a position to offer anything other than what they’re told to offer. That’s why I have empathy for them. No social media manager worth their salt would allow hundreds of complaints to pile up without doing something to mitigate the crisis – nor should any business owner who values their clientele.
There’s a lesson to be learned here for business owners large and small. Don’t tie the hands of your people on the front lines. Your social media team is in place to help you handle crises and to protect your brand’s reputation – online and off. As a business owner you must give your social media managers tools to work with. For starters, be sure that your server won’t be overwhelmed when lots of people want to purchase your products at the same time. Lots of customers should be a cause for celebration, not a crisis to be managed. If your site is capable of handling the traffic there will be minimal complaints lodged on your social media profiles and your social media team will be able to sincerely address those few issues (and maybe you could afford to give those few folks an extra discount).
Social media managers are your first lines of defense when there’s a crisis. Part of our job is to mitigate negative comments and protect your brand’s reputation, but you have to make decisions that give us the power to make things right for your customers. We are bound by the decisions made in the corner office. Don’t tie our hands. Let us help you. That’s what we do.
So I ask you…
If you were a decision-maker for Ann Taylor brands, what changes would you make to avoid another sale fail situation? Would you have let it go on this long? What would you do if you were on their social media team? Please leave your comments below!