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3 Lessons From British Airways Twitter Flap

Does your business know how to handle disgruntled customers who air grievances on social media? Here's how to nip bad PR in the bud.

Grindeland said that many businesses turn to social listening software that picks up on negative comments and messages and alerts businesses when there might be a situation they need to address.

2. Be Proactive

The worst thing a company can do with negative posts -- whether on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere -- is ignore them, Grindeland said. "With British Airways, they didn't respond to the ad or the messages right away, and it made the company look stupid and callous by ignoring the customer, Grindeland said. "That created bad PR for them."

Once Syed's ad started popping up in users' feeds, others replied to him to share their British Airways nightmare story, whether it was a cancelled flight, lost luggage or a downgraded seat due to overbooking. Nipping a situation in the bud helps ensure it doesn't get bigger than necessary, Grindeland said. He commended FedEx for its quick response to a situation, which ensured that the problem not only didn't get out of hand, but was resolved as well.

3. Be Empathetic

In the FedEx video that addressed the package handling incident, Brown stated that the company was disappointed, that the situation was unacceptable, and that it apologizes to its customers for the actions of the individual. Grindeland says that when businesses address a situation on social media, it's important to do so empathetically.

Grindeland described another situation in which a customer was disappointed with a business's customer service. The customer posted a rant on Twitter expressing his frustration and describing his bad customer service experience. Within minutes, the company replied to the customer, apologized to him and invited him to talk offline so they could resolve the problem. Grindeland said that after their offline conversation, the customer went back to Twitter to post about how great his experience was.

"This company used the platform to show concern and not get defensive about the situation or start a fight in the social sphere," he said. "By taking the time to connect with them offline, they were rewarded with an unsolicited post about how great the company was."

Grindeland said that being present, empathetic and proactive will help businesses adjust to the new ways social media is being used for customer service. "Companies really need to understand that social media is part of the business landscape now. They need to have a strategy, escalation and community guidelines, and tell their community managers what to do and what not to do," he said. "Businesses also need to understand the etiquette of social media, and behave within that etiquette. Use the medium themselves as it's being used by their customers."

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User Rank: Strategist
12/9/2013 | 4:17:09 PM
British airways Experience
BA doesn't even do well with their other customer interfaces. i do ont do twitter or facebook (I'm and old guy) so I attempted to deal with a problem I considered serious via email. 

They had to find me a new flight from Londen to Phoenix because weather got my connecting flight into Heathrow late.  They put me on a next day flight but did not honor the seat assignment I had paid a premium for.  I informed their agent that I paid for that because sitting for extended time withiout extending my legs resulted in physical pain.  The result was that I experienced physical pain for a few hours to get home.  Their response to my email came back about six weeks later and was simply a form letter format refunding me the seat premium.  I don't think they even refunded me the full amount of that but I am so disgusted I will not follow up further.

I think BA simply has poor customer service so to expect them to do well on Twitter will require a much more basic improvement on their part.
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/13/2013 | 12:30:19 AM
re: 3 Lessons From British Airways Twitter Flap
Sounds like British Airways' slow response is a symptom of treating social media as a separate, isolated channel. They probably did have customer service staff available during the hours this was going on, but those people weren't tuned in to the social channel or trained on how to respond (not that there's any guarantee they could have made this customer happy if they had)
User Rank: Apprentice
9/12/2013 | 7:04:05 PM
re: 3 Lessons From British Airways Twitter Flap
The tone-deaf quality of much social media outreach is pretty astounding. I guess companies are getting somewhat better ... but at a much slower rate than they ought to be.
Cara Latham
Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/12/2013 | 5:49:47 PM
re: 3 Lessons From British Airways Twitter Flap
I think the last example here is the most effective. Using the platform to show your company is reading what others are saying, and then using it to fix a problem with sincerity and transforming it into a positive social media output is the best case scenario when dealing with bad social PR.
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