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Customer Buys Promoted Tweets To Get British Airways’ Attention: To Fly, To Serve?

By Rachel Tran on Sep 3, 2013 12:29:00 PM

Brand complaints on Twitter are nothing new. Consumers are well aware of their ability to take their grievances to this public and convenient channel, but how far will they go to get a business to listen and react?

Customer Buys Promoted Tweets To Get British Airways’ Attention: To Fly, To Serve?

How about a customer buying a promoted tweet so their voice can be heard – loud and very clear –  by a far greater audience than just their own social following?

That is exactly what a disgruntled British Airways customer did yesterday. After the airline lost his father’s luggage, Hasan Syed challenged BA publicly on their customer service through the power of one promoted tweet.

A bad tweet about BA

Targeted at the New York and UK markets, this tweet racked up 25,000 impressions during its first 6 hours of promotion, according to Simpli Flying. And this is before any shares spread it virally across the internet. While this paid tweet didn’t prompt any response from British Airways’ global or US account one of Syed’s other tweets did receive a full apology, attributing their slow response to the opening times of their social profile.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have certainly made it very easy to spread content, and promotion features aren’t targeted specifically at business accounts. Consumers are just as empowered as brands to get reach for their messages; but is this incident a one-off, or could more consumers take customer-empowerment to the next level by paying for a wider audience for their experiences?

Here is some advice for businesses looking to soothe their customers’ anger before they feel the need to take it more public than ever before.

Offer Round The Clock Service

Social media runs 24/7. Dependent on your industry, or geographic location, you may need to extend your social opening hours beyond the traditional working day. It’s strongly advisable to analyse when your customers engage, and need service. If you’re missing them regularly at their point of need, extending service at least into the evening could significantly boost your capacity to deal with customers’ issues before they escalate.

Provide Direct Resolution

Airing your dirty laundry on social media is challenging, but you should strive to resolve customers’ issues publicly whenever possible. This becomes even more important when you know other customers’ eyes are on a case, awaiting your reaction. Instead, in this example, British Airways asked Syed to Direct Message and follow them, without checking that he was indeed already a follower. In face of huge attention, BA missed an opportunity to demonstrate their attentiveness and personalised customer service. Even where you are unable to resolve fully in public, taking initial steps to discuss the problem transparently can relieve your brand from further scorn, and even encourage a more moderate approach from your customers.

BA reply to a bad tweet

Always be on the lookout for industry issues

Proactively seeking customer service opportunities - not only your own, but those of your competitors - is a good way to stay top of all events and issues affecting your industry. In this example, one of the first people to comment on the British Airways mishap was Marty St. George, the senior vice-president of JetBlue Airways. When a scandal emerges for another business from your industry, you can not only learn what to do - or what not to do - from their experiences, but can pre-empt any contamination from the issue for your brand.

The overall cost of this complaint cost Hasan Syed $1000, is this the price a customer has to pay just to get the attention of a global corporation such as British Airways, or is this an extreme reaction? One suitcase may have been found and returned, but a lot more damage was done to British Airways’ reputation – one promoted tweet successfully spread the word on the company’s poor customer service.

What’s your reaction to the BA fiasco? Would your customers pay to get your attention on social media?

For more best practice tips on how to run a flawless social customer service programme, download our latest Definitive Guide to Social Customer Service.

Topics: Social News, Customer Service, Airline, Customer Experience

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