Staying the Course in a Social Customer Service Storm

When a brand doesn’t follow through on their promise, do you have the urge to take to the Internet and let ‘em have it? Social rants are nothing new, but recently, one British Airways traveler took social customer service to a new “altitude.”

The Back Story

After British Airways lost his luggage, businessman, Hasan Syed, attempted to contact the airline carrier’s customer service department, and despite his perseverance, failed to receive a resolution. Instead of proceeding to do what most unhappy customers do – tweet about it to their followers – Syed purchased promoted tweets targeting British Airways 302,000 Twitter followers:


Eight hours went by before British Airways responded to Syed’s tweets, even after he attracted the attention of international media, including BBC, CNN and Mashable:

BA 11

The Scary Truth

With so many social media monitoring tools out there, why didn’t British Airways respond to the disgruntled customer on Twitter within a matter of minutes? Their eventual response to Syed leads me to the scary truth:


When it comes to social media, brands still have a 9 – 5 mentality. It’s hard for them to grasp that social media operates 24/7, especially for international companies. If this one customer service story isn’t evidence enough that many brands still don’t get it when it comes to new consumer expectations, I don’t know what is. This incident in particular is a real-world reminder – and possible new trend–of how customer expectations have changed with the introduction of social and mobile channels. Consumers demand answers. And they demand them now. If a brand fails to acknowledge customer complaints, they could end up with a major crisis on their hands ending in the loss of loyal customers, new customers and revenue.

While spending thousands of dollars on social advertising may not be the first instinct for most dissatisfied customers, this course of action could be easily emulated by those who have the means and drive to do so. To combat this requires superior, speedy service from the get go, meaning customer service agents must be well-trained and well-equipped to deal with numerous types of customer complaints. This is where having an integrated multichannel desktop like LiveOps Engage™ can help. LiveOps Engage has real-time social monitoring and interaction history, meaning an agent could catch a complaint voiced via Twitter and see that the customer had attempted to contact the business via email or phone, as well. These would be red flags indicating that the company needs to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, aiding efforts to reduce backlash and avoid unwanted publicity.

The whole situation certainly provides a good learning opportunity and a reminder of the harsh reality that can face a company if social grievances go unanswered. The socialization and mobilization of the consumer have given customers a new level of power over a large number of people and brands needs to act accordingly. After all, the last thing any business wants is a negative tweet “flying around.”

–          Ann Ruckstuhl, SVP and CMO, LiveOps

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