Brands are a 'Snow Show' in Social

Heathrow Snow

Watching the crowds at Heathrow and St Pancras waiting for planes and trains respectively got me thinking about the way brands communicate when there’s something wrong. In each case, the news was filled with disgruntled passengers bad mouthing their chosen travel companies, frequently because of the lack of information that they had been given.

A quick read of the free commuter newspaper I read at the time mentioned Lufthansa complaint lines that don’t work, rude Eurostar staff, empty British Airways information desks and a general feeling of despair at BAA’s Heathrow airport. As I fell asleep one night before Christmas, BBC news informed me of a disastrous Southeastern train journey which took 6 hours to get from London to Kent and left 100 people stuck until 3am. The fact I remembered these details hours later is a sign that I will be less trusting of those brands and firms next time I may need to use them.

In this day and age there is no longer any excuse for not having an information feed direct from your organisation, unless you really are involved in a government cover-up.

Websites, email, SMS, Twitter, Facebook… the list of possible contact points for many of those helpless, stranded, weather victims is now almost unbelievable, yet it seems as if the snow paralysed not only the roads outside but also the information highway.

The funny thing is, a clear, honest, up to date online news feed could also very easily be used by those self-same evasive members of staff who never seem to know what’s going on in the organisations they work for. Can you imagine BA staff showing users how to follow the Twitter feed for all the London-New York flights, to get free SMS updates? In one fell swoop you would clear a vast chunk of constant questions while leaving staff free to help those who were not just asking the same 50 or so FAQs. Not only that, but good brand sentiment travels just as fast as bad – as BA travellers at airports, homes and offices around the world would tell their peers they are being kept up to date via BA Twitter for all their enquiries. This would generate long-tail conversions to the BA brand, as next time they think of booking a ticket they would remember the good things they heard about BA last time.

It’s easy to be communicative when you have something to sell or something to crow about. But if you really want to help your customers, build relationships with them and keep them loyal, then why not try being more communicative when you have a problem?

Photo (cc) Chris Wegg.