3 Lessons To Learn From British Airways Blunder

Customer service is so important to get right. Keep your customers happy, and they will keep coming back to you; they may even recommend you to friends. But it can be so disastrous when it goes wrong.

People want to talk to people

For businesses, social media provides marketing opportunities. We are able to target consumers more directly, providing them with content that they care about and getting our message out there.

We can engage with their opinions: suddenly, we can have instant access to know what they want, and to tell them that we can provide it.

Social media starts the conversation. Customers expect more from brands than just blanket advertising. They want interaction with other human beings.

BA customer service bungle

Businessman Hasan Syed has caused a media storm this week, as he took his dissatisfaction with British Airways customer services to social media.

When the airline lost the luggage of Mr. Syed’s parents, Syed took to social media to vent his anger and frustration.

“Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.”

Mr. Syed paid for a promoted tweet, in order to ensure his message was seen by millions. Within the first six hours of the tweet’s promotion, it received over 25,000 impressions on Twitter alone, as well as attention from blogging sites such as Mashable, and even airline industry blogs.

Though the airline took seven hours to respond, it seems that Mr. Syed can expect the return of his parents’ luggage today.

Social media: an online weapon

Mr. Syed resorted to his drastic measures after British Airways failed to respond to his parents’ complaint within two days. “BA was giving [my father] the run around so he asked me to assist,” he said.

Customers today have access to the same online tools as big corporations, and can use them to so swiftly and effectively damage reputation. Many companies have call answering systems in place, to handle customer complaints. In addition to this, social media provides customers with a useful space to air their concerns.

But that space is very public.

So, what can be learned from BA’s PR fumble?

1. Hear your customers

Sue Ratcliffe, Member Services Manager at alldayPA, comments that “It is important that your customers feel they are being heard.”

Social media provides customers with a means of contacting you directly, and very publicly, leaving your reputation open to criticism and possibly damage.

BA failed to respond in a timely manner to Mr. Syed’s complaint, which exacerbated the situation. “What is taking @British_Airways customer service so long? They’ve had over a day to figure this out,” he tweeted.

2. Respond to complaints in a timely and sympathetic manner

Mr. Syed experienced slow customer service, and he was annoyed about it. It appears he is one of the 71% of customers who expect to receive assistance within five minutes of reaching out to a company.

Call centres and social media are great mediums for keeping your customers feeling in touch with your company, making you contactable from anywhere, and making your brand feel more human and personal.

Mr. Syed derided BA’s office-hours-only approach to social media, stating, “how does a billion dollar corp only have 9-5 social media support for a business that operates 24/7?”

Customer perceptions of the company dictate that BA should be more accessible on such channels, because their services are 24/7.

Reflect on the impression your company gives. Will the same be expected of you? Consider whether you providing your customers with the level of care they have come to expect.

3. It’s not just about damage control: it’s about feeling connected

Social media provides your customers with the opportunity to vent frustrations and even anger. The point is that it is provoking because it is public, prompting companies to action.

How you handle the situation will reflect on your overall company image to every person who happens to see your posts.

But it is important that, until a dissatisfied customer complains, your social media strategy does not simply consist of soliloquies and monologues. Marketing is a conversation. It is important to encourage your customers to engage with your brand on a daily basis, asking questions and seeking opinions.

Use social channels to drive conversations about how you can improve. Avoid PR disasters like this by making sure that your clients and customers know they are being heard.

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