Just picture it. It’s Saturday afternoon at the shops and all around are sons and daughters rushing to purchase last-minute gifts for Mother’s Day.

But there’s none of this last-minute dash for you. You’ve already placed your flower order online the day before with a reputable retailer that, in general, gives great customer service in its stores.

You have used its online service to get flowers delivered before – within the last month or so – and it’s always made your nearest and dearest very happy. Job done, you think a little smugly. Or not.

Suddenly the phone rings. It’s the retailer’s customer service department on the line. There is a problem with the payment card information that you have provided. The transaction has been declined.

How can this have happened, you wonder. The order was placed through an existing online account with that retailer and the payment card details were saved from previous successful transactions.

The agent doesn’t seem to understand how the web site works. It certainly takes a lot of explaining to get across the point that the card details could not have been mis-keyed because they were already saved.

They can’t tell you why the transaction was declined, although they do suggest that maybe you tried to pay using saved details from an expired card. You point out that you only have details for one card saved and those details have allowed you to make online purchases with that retailer recently.

The customer service agent appears unwilling – or unable – to view your account history to verify this. They explain that you can place a new order, but it’s past the delivery deadline for Mother’s Day now so the flowers won’t get there in time. However pleasant the agent on the phone is, that’s poor customer service.

This is just one example of a retailer not delivering on promises it makes around the special days in its customers’ lives. Whether it’s Christmas, a birthday or Mother’s Day, letting your customers down simply isn’t good enough. Especially when it means that they let down those close to them too.

In the short term, it leads to missed sales that no retailer can afford at the moment. However, it’s the negative word of mouth that follows that retailers should really worry about.