When 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.