How Not To Be A Chump Through The Lack Of A Social Media Strategy Thus Propelling You To Hero Status

by / Friday, 31 January 2014 / Published in Uncategorized

The issue

A friend of mine was hurt recently by a major airline, and ultimately more hurt by the airline’s lack of a strategic social media response.

A solid social media strategy could have made this airline a hero, but instead made them a chump.

Here’s what happened.

My friend and her daughter were planning to fly American Airlines, en route, to catch a cruise. American Airlines changed her flight, forcing her to have more layovers, with no direct flight.

Naturally, American Airlines told her they would refund her money so she could buy from another airline company.

However, because the travel change is close to her actual travel date, all other airlines were now more expensive.


So….American Airlines attempted to justify the change, er mistake, with a pretty poor apology on Facebook. American Airlines tried to use social media to communicate something that should have been handled over a phone call or with a call center supervisor.

And after trying to resolve everything via email and a call center experience, my friend took to Facebook and posted below.

Her experience with their call center and their email customer service can only be described as a punch in the face.

Here is American Airlines response to my friends experience, via Facebook:

AA 1



Ouch. Can you say cold and calculated response?

The worst of the whole changed-flight-ordeal, was not that the plans were changed. Or even that she was being forced to pay more through another airline provider. (although that is enough to send a person over the edge)

Rather, it was in the airlines response on Facebook, the lack of customer service via email, and a less than ideal result with their call center.

It’s officially a trifecta: All three touch points with American Airlines were terrible.

(see my friends response below, and you will see the level of customer service was extremely low via email and the ensuing frustration from my friend, Tina)

AA 3


Having a solid social media strategy should not be this hard

The reason I’m writing this blog post is NOT to shame American Airlines. Rather, it’s the opposite.

It is to help them and other companies that use social media as a marketing tool for their brands. Social is hard but not that hard, and ultimately, airlines and other businesses do need help from schmucks like me.

That being said, airline companies like American, should know that their customers are some of the most socially devoted on the web. Meaning, airline and travel industries customer’s talk online about their experiences more than any other industry.

I am sure American Airlines is not the only airline company to struggle with the idea of social media being a customer service tool. And the travel industry is EXTREMELY hard to operate, so I have empathy for airlines companies and those trying to figure out how to please everyone online.

But that’s still no excuse to disappoint a guest that is flying on your airline, then giving them crappy excuses.

More importantly, every company will have customer service issues. The real measure of that company is HOW you resolve and handle that conflict, and how you handle that conflict online, through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

American Airlines should have responded differently.


Shining examples of awesome social media responses

Even though companies like American Airlines get it wrong, there is hope. Many companies exist that do a great job using social to build their brand, and radiate the results of positive experiences through good customer service, online.

Here are some great examples of awesome marketing-driven customer service, online and some tips for American Airlines.

Attest Retail is a retailer based in California. They turned a negative response into excellence by responding with a direct email address, all the while affirming their guest.



Dollar Shave Club, a men’s razor and CPG, responded positively to a customer service issue in this example. 




What is the solution

Here are some awesome social media strategies and tactics that companies need to be using in order to better communicate with their customers.

  1. Reply to the positive comments, as well as the negative. Make sure your best comments via Twitter and Facebook are praised! Be sure and Re-Tweet all positive comments about your brand via Twitter and praise your customers by commenting on Facebook.
  2. Be brief when replying to negativity. If your social media response is longer than a few sentences, it is too long. For negative comments, reply constructively and keep them brief. Remove any emotion in your reply and keep the authors of negative comments focused on a direct contact phone number or email. Try and take the comments off-line and resolve the customer service issue. A simple response like ‘We hear you and that is terrible! So sorry you had an issue with our company. Here is a our supervisors direct line. 800-555-1234. Please reach out to him. Sorry again!’
  3. Never delete negative comments. Ever disturb a hornets nest? Not a pretty site, if you have. In other words, by deleting angry customers’ comments, you will only provoke them. Reply to them with grace and empathy, and avoid deleting their comments, without affirming them. Leave the negative comment up on Facebook or Twitter and show your customers that you care and can positively resolve customer service issues using your new social media strategy.
  4. Give out personal information. If an upset customer leaves a negative response, deal with it right away. To help accomplish this, leave a direct contact phone number where the customer can call someone to vent and resolve the issue. Do not let the comments go on and on. Deal with the issue head on and satisfy the customer.
  5. Affirm your guest and customers. When people are upset, do not attempt to justify your companies screw-up. Own up, say you’re sorry and resolve the conflict. By doing what American Airlines did, you are only stoking the fire. Affirming is NOT admitting guilt or agreeing with your customer’s point of view. It is simply acknowledging their frustration and showing compassion. Very few people do this well and even fewer companies consistently do this online. Affirm, affirm, affirm! Learn more about how to affirm well, by reading this blog post and watching the video link! 

I hope American Airlines resolved their issue with Tina.

What a great social media win that could be for AA. Not to mention, they would have a customer for life!

How do you resolve customer service issues online? How are you using social media? Share your experience in the comments section below!

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