Another Social Media Fail – Brought to you (Again) by Malaysia Airlines

It’s a given that 2014 has been a very bad year for Malaysia Airlines. Just about as bad as it can get in the airline industry. In two separate incidents – the crash of flight MH17 in Ukraine and the disappearance of flight MH370 – 510 passengers lost their lives.

In addition to the tragic human loss, the company is now riddled with financial losses that began even before the ML370 “crash” in March. Of course the two tragedies caused an even larger snowball effect as the company is currently faced with insurance payouts, lost planes and crews and a not surprisingly decline in bookings (in the 2nd quarter, average weekly bookings declined 33%).

But heck, thank God they have a marketing and social media team to take passengers’ minds off of things as well as to take the brand to new heights. Right?

Well…not so much.

Just last week, the social media team for Malaysia Airlines had to apologize after sending a very bizarre tweet that was an attempt to promote last-minute holiday travel deals. There’s no need for further set up – here’s the post:

“Want to go somewhere, but don’t know where? Our Year-End Specials might just help.”Malaysia Airline Tweet

Oh dear. Probably not the best slogan if only 8 months ago, you lost a plane that just disappeared without a trace.   Well, one could chalk it up to a possible loss in translation I suppose. But that certainly doesn’t explain another big faux pas that occurred just in September.

Brilliantly trying to devise ways to inspire and incentivize consumers, the marketing department created a dialogue and contest where it asked folks what types of things and destinations are on their “bucket list.”

Oh yes they did. Not as obviously offensive as the most recent Tweet, but this one is pretty inappropriate too.

I am going to take the high road and blame it on another poor translation. But if that is the case, I would strongly advise Malaysia Airlines, and all global brands, to ensure that they use only native speakers as community managers for their social media channels. I know doing so can be costly, but it can greatly help to reduce these types of incidents from happening.

However, this still wouldn’t necessarily get rid of careless and poorly thought out marketing strategies, would it?

What do you think?

 

 

 

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Any PR is better than none, right? Wrong.

There’s been some controversy over an event that happened over the weekend. A professional golfer, Alastair Forsyth of Scotland, was playing in the Madeira Islands Open when his caddy suddenly collapsed on the fairway of the ninth hole which was Forsyth’s final hole of the event.

Caddies react to the sudden death of a fellow caddy who died on the fairway during a tournament.

Caddies react to the sudden death of a fellow caddy who died on the fairway during a tournament.

Frantic efforts were made on the course to resuscitate the 52-year old caddy, Ian MacGregor, but unfortunately he was pronounced dead at the scene from an apparent heart attack. MacGregor was well-loved among the caddies, and they, along with other players and fans, were stunned over what had happened.

What happens next is a bit bizarre.   For one, the tournament officials didn’t call the tournament right then and there. But what appears to be even more disturbing is that Forsyth decided to keep playing.

Yes, Forsyth’s caddy literally dropped dead on the final hole of the tournament and he felt it best to play through. Bad decision? Well, it would have seemed completely understandable for him to drop out of the tournament and give a heartfelt speech about the tragic loss of his dear friend and caddy. In doing so he would surely lose the tournament, but he would have gained much sympathy and respect from fans and the media for his noble gesture.

Instead he’s received much notoriety.  His fans, the media and people around the world are portraying him as callous and heartless.

Oh, and he didn’t win the tournament.

What do you think about it?

6 Social Media Customer Service Tips for Small Businesses

"The Scream" by Munch

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch

We’ve all been there.  That moment we become so utterly frustrated and incensed over a product or service mishap that we angrily dial the phone to reach a live person for help.   If we survive the exasperating labyrinth of automated phone hell, we may finally connect with someone who – after all that – may or may not (“I have to check with my supervisor”) be able to help us. Argh!

Well, it seems that phone complaints are becoming passé.  The often profane-laden phone tirades, accusations and pleas have yielded to a new medium through which to get a company’s attention: Social media.

I believe there are several reasons for this. First, social media correspondence has taken over for many as a preferred method of communication, especially among millenials.  Second, today’s  automated customer service phone systems are designed to work more as a moat surrounding the corporate castle, and only the fittest and those with too much time on their hands can steamroll past the murky water to reach a representative. Third, consumers have realized that the last thing a brand wants is to be shamed on Twitter or Facebook for all their customers to see.  In my experience, consumers posting problems via social media channels have typically led to companies resolving matters fairly quickly.

Large brands employ a social media community manager whose job is to create awareness and engagement for the brand as well as observe and respond to customer inquiries and complaints.   However many small and mid-sized companies don’t have the time and resources for a full-time community manager.  So what happens in many instances is that monitoring the social channels becomes an afterthought.  Companies double up social media duties, throwing them into the lap of a sales executive, administrative assistant or even (gasp) IT.  And, I’ve seen many times with small businesses, the CEO/owner takes the helm of the social media channels.

If any of those scenarios are the case for you, here are some tips to effectively address customer complaints within social media channels:

1. Regularly monitor your social media sites – I believe one of the biggest assets of social media (particularly Twitter) is listening.  It’s not glamorous or edgy, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to help understand your customers’ wants and needs. You don’t want to hear it second hand that someone has dissed your brand on social media; you want catch it first.  Be active in monitoring brand mentions and complaints so that you can swiftly react and rectify the situation and nip situations in the bud. Jetblue social media

2. Respond quickly – but not too quickly – Waiting five minutes before addressing a complaint can help eliminate the possibility of a hot-headed response from a gut reaction for which we are all capable.  Just as you should think before you speak, think before you tweet or post and avoid the possibility of making the matter worse. Here’s a great example (left) of the airline Jet Blue responding to a customer’s frustrated tweet.   Brands that do it right respond to a complaint in four hours or less.

3. Don’t be defensive or condescending – Look, you and your brand are never going to come out ahead in a name-calling match, so try your best to avoid that scenario.  And, keep in mind that while most complaints are valid, there are a group of folks out there who simply like to stir the pot just for fun.  Make sure you can tell the difference between the two.

4. Acknowledge their problem – Customers – whether in-store, on the phone or online want to know that their voice is being heard.   Respond initially with something like “I’m sorry to hear your [product] is not working/broken/missing a part, etc.  I can help you.”  Then as a next step:

5. Do your best to get them offline – You don’t want the dialogue to go on publicly through social media, especially when the customer is very angry.  I recently voiced my frustration via Twitter about – of all things – the phone system maze at my bank.  Within an hour, I received a response from a point person at the bank who gave me her direct number and I was able to get the matter resolved.  If you really can promptly and effortlessly solve the problem, it’s alright to do so publicly – just be careful not to appear as self-serving.

6. Use humor when applicable – I’m not advocating that you make light of any complaint.  But, In some cases when the problem is not a grave or serious one, adding some friendly humor can help disarm some egghead who is ranting and raving without due cause (remember those folks who love to stir the pot). Sometimes the best way to silence them is with an unexpected, cheeky response.  Use discretion as this can be a tricky line to cross.  A great example of this is a recent letter written from BIC pens UK, in response to what we infer was one man’s outrageous and profane complaint about his new pens (strong and explicit language here so read at your own risk): http://www.brandwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/bicletter.jpg

In most cases, acknowledging a customer complaint and responding quickly and purposefully will be enough to resolve matters.   As with all of us, customers appreciate being heard.

Tips for Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis

Typically, when we think of companies that absolutely should have crisis plans in place, those such as pharmaceutical, airline and oil companies come to mind, since even the slightest misstep could lead to massive loss of lives.  It’s a given that big corporations invoke the help of stellar public relations teams  to help management map out various crisis scenarios and plan appropriate processes, procedures and communication to address those potential situations.  Crisis 3

However, small and mid-sized companies need solid crisis plans too.  After all, it’s  not usually the original crisis that typically brings down a brand, but rather how that company responds to that crisis that determines if the company’s or brand’s reputation is irreparably damaged or not.  And, with social media playing a larger role in the communicative landscape today, companies need to be more prepared than ever.

Many executives at small and medium-sized businesses think they don’t need a crisis plan; they believe that they are nimble enough to handle a mishap and will be able to get their arms around the situation as it comes.  What they don’t realize is that in the chaos of crisis, being prepared is the best and only way to really help take control (as much as you can) of the situation and to not make it worse.  Most recently, the Carnival Cruise Triumph crisis comes to mind.  Not only was the loss of power, rationing of food and the passengers’ exposure to raw sewage a crisis, it was compounded by Carnival’s lack of transparency and immediate response to its passengers and the public.  The company is still in damage control mode from that mess.

And, if you think that your company doesn’t need a plan because it isn’t public-facing, you are mistaken. Unfortunately, natural disasters or disgruntled employees waging violence can descend at any time upon your workplace, as can fire damage or even personal scandals.  What many business leaders don’t realize is that it behooves any company to have a solid plan in place.

Here are few steps to take in helping ensure that your organization is prepared for a crisis:

Prepare in advance
The onset of a situation is no time to determine your plan of action.  Knowing your business as well as you do, begin to address all of various the types of scenarios that would create a crisis for your company (from on-site accidents to natural disasters).  Knowing those potential situations in advance can help your team better determine the appropriate response and focus on the next steps to help manage the crisis.

Organize a crisis response team
Choose individuals who will comprise of your crisis management team.  This can include the CEO, communications and public relations managers, legal counsel, HR, and other appropriate officers of the company.   The team will decide who is responsible for what roles in a crisis situation, especially in determining who the spokesperson will be and how the team will communicate with each other.  Everyone should know his or her role so that he or she may act accordingly in a seamless and responsive manner.

Let employees know the crisis policy basics
With social media being so pivotal in spreading news these days, especially within the epicenter of a crisis, you need to make sure all employees know what they can and cannot do in a possible scenario.  Of course they don’t necessarily need to know all the response details of the team, but certainly the crucial ones such as no tweeting or posting about it.  Many times, the media will call an employee and try to find out what they can from them.  You can avoid more confusion and headaches if you let employees know in advance that they are never to speak with the media as well as to whom on staff they must notify if they are approached.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Make sure the crisis response team does some actual test runs of the plan so that roles are clear and communication is quick and nimble.  Just as you might have on-site fire drills, you need to ensure that your crisis team has practiced scenarios so that if they do happen to occur, everyone is well-prepared.  I have a friend who interned at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo one summer.  He was excited about the time he got to play the escaped animal (a polar bear in this case) in an emergency practice drill.   He had a certain amount of time (minutes) to hide anywhere in the entire zoo until emergency personnel became aware and could find him.  Of course, he was no match for the well-rehearsed response team and was found within minutes cowering in the shrubs near the waterfowl exhibit.   Luckily, they didn’t shoot him with the tranquilizer gun!

In summary, while taking these steps can be challenging since they takes time away from your business at hand, they are truly essential in helping to ensure that your brand navigates as successfully as possible through a crisis situation.  For more information on crisis management, please email me directly at slvaselaney@slvpr.com.