British Airways

The Power of Social Media: Turning Disgruntled Customers Into Loyal Ones

A wise, rather scantily clad woman once said: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” While I’m sure Dita Von Teese was referring to her female counterparts, I think this quote can be applied to business, too.

No matter how good your products, how refined your processes, how well you’ve trained your staff, at some point along the line you’re going to end up with an unhappy customer. Back in the day we were told that news of bad customer service reached more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience. Thanks to social media however, that figure is now potentially thousands of times more ears.

So what does it mean for your business? Well, depending on you, it can either be very good or very bad.

The Bad

Hasan Syed, a Chicago-based business owner, took to twitter to complain of the poor service he received flying British airways.

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Followed by…

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Syed paid a cool $1000 to promote the tweet, and as a result was seen by an initial 76,000 users. It was then re-tweed in a smart move by Marty St. George, senior vice-president of marketing and commercial at JetBlue Airways; and picked up by dozens of news outlets world-wide.

British Airways could have used this tweet as an opportunity to not only win over a disgruntled customer, but to show off some amazing customer service skills. Instead, their reply was somewhat lacklustre, not to mention robotic.

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While the majority of people supported Syed’s move, finding it both a revelation and hilarious, others wondered if he might have got the same result if he went through the proper customer service channels. However, the twitter.com/we_hate_ba page – a profile dedicated to posting the customer service screw ups of the airline – begs to differ.

So, what can we learn from British Airways’ social media faux pas?

1 – Do it right the first time. You can bet if Syed’s missing luggage was dealt with competently and compassionately in the beginning, he wouldn’t have felt the need to take to social media to voice his frustrations.

2 – If you’re on social media and you receive a complaint, your responses need to be fast and empathetic.

3 – Don’t ignore angry customers. Otherwise, you might just end up with a page devoted to your mistakes.

The Good

JetBlue, an American low-cost airline are renowned for being one of the most skilled companies on Twitter at handling consumer complaints. They average an unbelievable 10 minute response time for the 2,500-2,600 mentions they see daily, and as you can see – they do it well.

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They reply to as many critical tweets as positive ones, and their human, compassionate and at times funny responses endear them to customers – a stark contrast to Hasan Syed’s experience. Take a leaf out of JetBlue’s book and instead of being offended, angry, upset, or worse apathetic when a customer has something negative to say, cherish it. Customer feedback is gold. They’re teaching you how to make your product, your service and your business better.

While this blog has focused on Twitter’s involvement, it shouldn’t just be the fear of backlash of social media that makes you want to excel in customer service. With loyal customers being worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase – it’s better for your bottom line too.

– Steph