Starbucks found themselves in a little conundrum this week when they tweeted to their Argentina customers, apologizing for a temporary supply shortage, and therefore the temporary use of non-branded cups and sleeves – made in Argentina. Typically, this would have been a smart and well-received message from the coffee brand. However, there are exceptions to every rule, and as it turned out, the comment was not well received by their Argentinian customers and fans.

It was instead taken as an insult to their nation – why should Starbucks be apologizing for using Argentinian-made supplies? As #pedimosdisculpas (#weapologize) trended on Twitter, people were expressing sarcasm with tweets wondering when Starbucks “will start apologizing for hiring local staff that speak Spanish”. Most definitely not the response that Starbucks had anticipated!

Although Starbucks was quick to respond to this outcry, the lesson here is that no matter how well we follow the “social media communications rules”, we can’t expect to please everybody, and little firestorms can be created quickly and without prior anticipation. Starbucks, feeling confident that they were doing the right thing, could not have anticipated that their Argentinian customers would be so offended by their attempt at an apology for their brand’s lack of better internal management.

Starbucks’ response

Starbucks took the correct steps with their initial tweet, and they continued to take the correct steps with their Facebook apology:

“We apologize for the post this morning – we understand your comments and clarify that the intention was to tell you that we are using different than the usual supplies, temporarily in some stores. This is due to a breakdown of stock by an internal planning error.

We are working to continue providing the best for our fans.

We like to be transparent with our community and share each of our updates – whether permanent or temporary.” (translated by Bing)

A lesson in the making

When it comes to communicating with your customers and fans on social media, truth, transparency and timely updates are always the best strategies to take. You have to remember that you can never please everyone, and social media attacks may arise when least expected. That’s why a social media crisis communications plan is always in your best interest – to be developed before you find yourself faced with such an incident. But when truth, transparency and timely updates are a part of your social media policy, you can always rest assured that you’re on the right path.

How do you feel about this particular incident? Would you have taken insult to Starbucks’ tweet, and what do you think of the way they chose to handle the situation? Share your thoughts with me below!