3 Lessons From British Airways Twitter Flap - InformationWeek

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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.

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10 Twitter Power Tips
Earlier this summer, a video showing a FedEx driver throwing packages into a delivery vehicle surfaced, sparking outrage on the Internet. Just two days after the video was posted, the company's SVP of human resources, Shannon Brown, took to YouTube to admonish that driver's actions and assert that he is "no longer working for FedEx." That quick response drew praise from around the Web -- an example of good customer service.

But an example of bad customer service caught the eye of many last week. Twitter user Hasan Syed, who uses the handle @HVSVN, spent $1,000 to promote a tweet in New York City and the United Kingdom slamming British Airways. The tweet, which was seen by nearly 77,000 people, according to a screen shot Syed posted, read: "Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous." Syed was frustrated over British Airways' inaction after losing his father's luggage, he later said.

When British Airways finally did reply to Syed's tweets, it apologized for the delay and informed him that the company's "Twitter feed is open 0900-1700 GMT." Syed's reply: "How does a billion dollar corp only have 9-5 social media support for a business that operates 24/7?"

[ How is Twitter eating Facebook's lunch? Read: 4 Ways Twitter Is Beating Facebook. ]

Mark Grindeland, chief marketing officer at customer experience solution provider TeleTech, said that social media has changed the way companies do business. To be successful, businesses need to adjust their mindset and practices.

"Social media has challenged everything -- businesses are being disrupted and transformed," he said. "Customers play a huge role in actively shaping how products are made, how companies operate and how the truth is told, all thanks to social media. This blurs the lines of customer service, and businesses need to change."

Here's a look at three strategies businesses should adopt to promote better customer service using social media.

1. Be Present

One of British Airways' main faults in the situation with Syed is that the company was not available around the clock to field customer complaints, Grindeland said.

"They were treating social media like it was a retail store, and as a result it took them a long time for the tweets to hit their radar," he said. "People on the social Web don't have hours. A company has to understand that they need to be able to respond to customers 24/7."

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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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