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Brands are quickly learning that they ignore social media at their own peril. Customer
service should be at the forefront of any brand’s strategy, and Twitter
presents an excellent opportunity for to engage with consumers. Instant,
helpful responses can do wonders for a brand. But ignoring customer
feedback can bury you.
One company that might learn this the hard way is Frontier Airlines. The airline recently changed its standby policy. In so doing, they angered a very vocal customer. But he wasn’t the only one upset by Frontier’s approach.
Late last year, startup enthusiast and blogger Andrew Hyde spent six hours in the Denver airport because of a change to Frontier’s standby policy. An airline employee told Hyde that the flight he wanted to get on was full, but he found out that wasn't true. So over the course of six hours he spent waiting in the airport to get on a flight, Hyde purchased over $1000 in airline tickets with airlines other than Frontier. He also created an aggregation site for complaints about the airline.
Until this point, Hyde had been an ardent enthusiast of the airline, and says that all he was looking for was a simple apology for the way he had been treated. But he didn’t get it. Instead, he started a Twitter feed for the airline on his own (@frontierair) in the hopes that Frontier would take it over as a corporate account. He wrote:
"It was an admitted ‘fan account.’ I didn’t pretend to be the airline, or an employee. But I did become a cheerleader. It was fun at first! Reposting fans tweets about excellent service, great deals and fun experiences was rewarding (even for a humble fan account). But I’m a bit tired of missing so many opportunities for the same messaging control that I started the account. I don’t have any info on the flight that landed with one engine malfunctioning. I can’t do anything to the person that got bumped and is cursing your name. I’m not empowered to make things right."
10,000 page views later, Frontier has responded. But they didn't take the bait. Frontier’s PR department said that the company has no plans to use Twitter as a customer service platform in the near future:
"We know many companies, including major airlines, have moved on to direct engagement with their customers via blogs, Twitter and other social media. Those companies have also raised the expectations of Twitter users to a level that can sometimes become unmanageable, even with the best of resources. We don’t want to disappoint our customers by introducing a communications tool we can’t properly support. We also have a lot committed to our more traditional customer service tools. Any introduction of new programs now would end up taking resources away from existing channels."
Hyde, needless to say, was not satisfied with the response. He wrote today on his blog:
You must make a choice: be open and honest about your customer service or don’t. This has nothing to do with your PR department (which I think is understaffed and does a fine job). Are you creating passionate users or getting passive and lazy?
Yes, I call not monitoring and responding to social media lazy. I’ve personally spent over $5000 on plane tickets since the incident, with $0 going to Frontier. The cost benefit is far in your favor, but you refuse to participate. That is lazy. Look at the comments in the original post I wrote. Tens of thousands of $ is going to Southwest because their customer service has embraced social media, with their PR department.
As of today, Hyde is turning the @Frontier account into a space for complaints about the company. He may be a well-known blogger that can draw attention to his issues and complaints, but Hyde's Twitter aggregator is not just his solitary rants. It's a live feed of peopel dissatissfied with a company's product. Today, anyone can go online to voice praise, concern, or criticism about a company. Good customer service is good brand strategy, and corporations that are proactive about it online can increase their brand's reputaiton, as JetBlue has been doing with its human, often funny Twitter feed.
Hyde tells Econsultancy: “Microsharing changes the game, Twitter being the case of thousands of people becoming content creators.”
And while brands like Frontier might be feeling overwhelmed by the constantly changing nature of social media, it is in their interest to sort it out, and quickly. In a world where anyone can have a platform to voice critiques, ignoring customers can be a dangerous policy.