Why The BirchBox (UK) ‘Customer Appreciation Day’ Failed

All publicity is good publicity? Not when a PR campaign fails, and the customers are left frustrated and angry. Prior to the Customer Appreciation Day on 30 September, Birchbox had been posting various promotional codes offering 2 for 1 boxes, free gifts with orders, and bonus points with orders. Things were already going wrong there…

Customers won codes for a free box when they subscribed, even though they were already subscribers (customer services apologized and asked people to contact them), and then codes suddenly stopped working. One of the problems is that Birchbox issued codes and didn’t give an end date or state ‘while stocks last’. They reinstated the 2 for 1 offer after multiple complaints a few days later, and added ‘while stocks last’ on the order page.

Come the actual Customer Appreciation Day, there were a number of offers; a live feed with prize draws, an hourly Twitter giveaway, free shipping on all orders, and a free Ritual Hand Balm with all full sized orders (while stocks last). The tweets didn’t seem to be that popular with an average of 500 retweets (the idea was to retweet to win) although I retweeted and won nothing, but I did place a couple of orders and the Rituals Hand Balm was automatically added to my cart and confirmed at checkout.

This is where it all got a little messy, when the orders arrived minus the Rituals Hand Balm. People took to social media where the standard response was to contact support and they would ‘be happy to chat’ about it. Various posts have been made about the fact that the free gift was confirmed at checkout and processed as thus. If Birchbox had run out, the ordering process should not have confirmed the free gift. It’s quite simple to do, and they eventually did remove this from the checkout page, but it has left hoardes of unhappy and disappointed customers and I am one of them.

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Another poster has pushed for a response and others suggested an alternative gift be made or an offer of points, but Birchbox seem to be sticking to the ‘while stocks last’ mantra, despite the fact they failed to implement a system to stop the free gift being added to carts. Now apparently (according to social media) Birchbox say they ran out about 6 p.m. and if you did place an order before then, a gift was included and if not to contact them. I can only surmise that they do have an alternative, but this goes to show how PR can go wrong when all the bases aren’t covered. Customer goodwill is important, and it’s not as if people are trying to pull a fast one—if a cart includes a product in the final bill then it should be honored.

Birchbox need to fix this PR disaster, and the best way is to offer some points so people can at least exchange it for an item, and would be less costly to ship out thousands of free gifts. Currently my queries are in a queue, and I have been told I must wait three days before chasing up the query again. The fact that customer services has such a backlog doesn’t bode well, and I assume many queries are for the missing free gift in orders.

The idea of Customer Appreciation Day was to encourage sales, but it seems to have had an adverse effect where more people are cancelling subscriptions and wanting refunds for their orders. Basically their orders were incomplete when the free gift was omitted, and thus something should be offered besides an apology of ‘it was while stocks last’. I doubt many people would have placed orders once they knew the gift had run out, so is that deception or carelessness in failing to ensure the website was up to date during the day?

Here is their response:

“ … we’re so sad to hear you feel this way. The hand cream promotion was while stocks lasted and due to the high demand on the day we ran out of the hand cream in the early evening and so no more hand creams were being applied to orders after a certain time. If you ordered before 6pm and you still didn’t receive a hand cream please email us on support@Birchbox.co.uk and we will look into this for you. Thank you.”

Apparently the free gift was still being applied to orders when stocks had run out, but Birchbox haven’t done anything so far about this. Let’s wait and see what happens…

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