Watch Your Reputation


Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 8.51.03 PMWhen it comes to reputation management, British Airways learned the hard way that social media is playing a bigger part than it used to. I have previously mentioned that Dave Carroll reached out and created a video after being upset with how his broken guitars were handled. Here is the story from Dave’s point of view. While British Airways did offer him flight vouchers and the cost of his guitar as chronicled in this article, a bigger part of that is how this got out of control before that happened.
When looking back at this, it is always easier to point out what works since hindsight is 20/20. To give you an idea of what I am talking about, this video went viral before it really got attention from the company.

So what does this mean for someone who is in charge of an online reputation? I think it should be treated just as an argument that would have occurred face to face. The first step would have been to handle this in a timely manner, since that didn’t occur right off the bat; I would start with an apology. A sincere apology can make people feel better about the situation that they are in. After that, an expectation should be set for resolution, such as, we will get back to you about this within a day, or however long the company sets as a time. As far as giving them a free ticket or paying them back for their guitars, while it may have been what would have made them happy originally, at this point and with this much media coverage it seems as though it would be British Airways trying to buy their silence. Instead of just offering money, something that usually makes people more at ease with the situation is changing policy. When any company has a situation and realizes that what they were doing doesn’t work anymore, they should change their policy and move forward instead of apologizing for the past or trying to justify their current policy.

I have never encountered this severe of a customer service problem, but a common frustration I have noticed by either myself or people around me is that companies choose to justify policies that don’t make sense. There is no need to stick to a policy that doesn’t work and customers would like to see a company work through an issue and come out with a better procedure than they had when they first began dealing with them. In this case, a change of policy when it comes to how soon people are expected to respond within would make a big difference.

4 responses »

  1. Thanks Amanda. You mean United not BA. Its ok, we’ve talked about a lot of airlines in the past few weeks!! Absoutely right about the speedy response. I guess you have to be careful with how you phrase your apology as you could be accepting liability. Any ethical implications in responding?

    • Whoops! I guess talking about 2 airlines this week was 2 too many for my brain to handle. I think that they should accept liability in this case, since they know they broke the guitar. I am sure not every case will be the same and sometimes companies do need to watch their wording, but for this case it is obvious that it was their fault and that they need to apologize. There are ethical implications if you respond one way on social media to appease people and then act differently. A big part of why people love social is that it is transparent and if a company was to go back on their word or change things once it comes to a more direct message, that would be a real problem for their image once it got out. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Let’s be fair, in this situation, United did just about EVERYTHING wrong to take care of the customer. They considered only themselves, and looked to protect their bottom line. Sadly, this happens all the time. This is where you insert individuals such as us, who help Operational brands think differently—we teach the number and total Ops guys to consider the ethical and social implications of just saying NO to purchasing a new guitar.

    I agree that you 100% in responding in a timely manner. That is the first (and probably the biggest place) that they dropped the ball. Consider how you feel when someone doesn’t respond to you for something small. Now extrapolate that to a $3,500 guitar (which helps you create your livelihood). Yep, I’d be angry too. I like that you have United taking ownership of the situation as well, and you have them working with the customer to come up with a solution, vs. just ignoring them, as the original situation occurred.

    Sometimes, we need to step outside of our comfort zones to come up with the best possible solutions for all parties involved.

    • Ha, you are right! They really didn’t get anything right on this one. I think when something has gotten this big and the media has gotten involved that it really is the best to collaborate on how to best handle future incidents. Although in order to excel at this companies need to be consistent and ask for help, which is something a lot of companies don’t want to do. However, I really think that any company who is facing a media disaster or is going through a rebrand should reach out to see what people want to see done since it is a good way to get effective insight. I think you bring up a good point. Stepping out of a comfort zone is not always something we want to do, but as you said, you can come up with the best solutions and get the best results. Thanks for commenting!

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