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Man on the Street uses Twitter to Demand Better Service from Big Business

27 Sep

Category colourworks


Social media has empowered consumers to demand service excellence from even the most promising brands, especially when they fail to deliver on their promises. This became evident when a man on the street, Hasan Syed, chose to berate British Airways via Twitter about his dad’s missing luggage – a common annoyance experienced by many.

Most unhappy customers would probably rant via a Tweet or Facebook update about mediocre service received from a brand and wait for their problem to be resolved. Hasan did something quite different and sent out a Tweet on steroids – also known as a “promoted tweet” – which can be purchased through Twitter’s self-service ad platform.

A promoted tweet is a service used by marketers who want to widen the reach of their messages. This type of tweet shows in the public’s Twitter feed regardless of who they follow and is generally given higher visibility. The promoted tweet purchased by Hasan read: “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.” This tweet was targeted at the airline’s 300,000 followers and in a span of a few hours got picked up by the media and accumulated 76 000 impressions.

To put it mildly – the damage was done and Hasan was satisfied. This incident was shortly labeled as a potential new trend by Marty St. George (Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Commercial at JetBlue Airways). It acts as a warning to other reputable brands who provide careless customer service.

Consumers are taking back their power. They are telling brands that they have certain expectations and when they are not met, it’s easy for them to use to social media to air their negative experiences with others.

The danger for the companies is that these complaints could be seen by your competitors, potential and existing customers, partners or even your stakeholders. In today’s information rich age, nothing is done behind closed doors and trends such as these are only going to evolve.

In hindsight, British Airways could have done a number of things to prevent this promoted tweet from snowballing out of control. Here are some valuable lessons we can take away:

Lesson 1: Think Fast, React Quickly

British Airways had to be proactive and act fast but instead, they only reacted over 6 hours later. Social media has a sporadic nature and any public outbursts against your carefully protected brand need to be dealt with immediately and in the nicest possible way.

Lesson 2: Don’t Let Your Service Standards Slip

The manner in which a customer complaint is handled can mean the difference between acquiring a new customer for life or losing one and damaging your online reputation in the process. Mishaps happen in every business.

If tackled with efficiency and professionalism, these reinforce your brand’s trustworthiness and authenticity. If handled carelessly, you lose credibility and your reputation is tarnished. Every customer deserves to have the best experience with your brand, so don’t compromise your service standards when dealing with customers.

Lesson 3: When You Apologise, Just Say I’m Sorry

When you admit you’re at fault, people are generally open to accept your apology so make sure you do it properly first time round. This is not something you want lingering over your head for longer than necessary. Don’t reduce your apology to a weak and feeble attempt. Be clear, direct and own up to what you did, stating clearly that you are in the wrong.

Lesson 4: Don’t Let Automated Scheduled Updates Run Your Feed

Scheduled updates that revolve around business products, news or services can become irrelevant when breaking news happens. You don’t want your brand to appear insensitive, far removed from what is going on or reactive instead of proactive. It’s important to show human interest and personalise your responses so it doesn’t give the appearance that technology is doing this for you.

In reality, it’s a case of “prevention is better than cure”.  If a business maintains consistent standards of excellence, the likelihood of being lambasted by irate customers is minimal.  However, service excellence has undoubtedly increased in importance with the power firmly in the hands of the customer and the penalty for falling short can be severe.