At first I thought that nothing could be worse than a delayed plane for travel companies. However, after exploring the PR disaster Flybe experienced on Twitter this week, I realised responding to consumers in real time is more important than ever. When a plane is delayed there is not much consumers can do but when they feel ignored, they can just shout louder.
Flybe appeared on my twitter timeline earlier in the week. I didn't know much about them before but after seeing this tweet, they certainly did not give a good impression.
@flybe So my little sister and her friends were refused boarding from your flight attendants & her supersvisors because she saw them and felt threatened! THIS IS THEM PLEADING WITH HER THAT THEIR PARENTS ARE WAITING FOR THEM IN THE UK, THE SUPERVISOR CONFISCATE THEIR PASSPORTS! pic.twitter.com/huewtvanCG— kai$£r (@KaiserCoby) 30 June 2019
This tweet was an absolute PR disaster! As I felt pretty certain there was more to the situation, my curiosity had been spiked and I begun reading what others were saying:
Tweets kept rolling in and anyone could see the consumers were absolutely furious. What I found increasingly interesting was that everyone was trying to contact Flybe; they wanted an answer. Those who felt that they were being ignored were trying to involve others and some even encouraged the trending of the #FlybeFlyRacism. Such a stir had been caused online that the BBC has covered it in this article.
This thread got me mad af @flybe this is ridiculously unprofessional. Will never use your airline and will make sure I spread the word thoroughly.— ℤ𝕒𝕟𝕟𝕖 𝔸𝕦𝕣𝕒 🌬 (@lovefromzanne) 30 June 2019
Clearly you guys have hired incompetent people who are following incompetent procedures.
Everyone email them— Trigga LaFLAME 🦅 (@iCookChickens) 30 June 2019
Flybe made things worse by only tweeting their official response on the 2nd July - 2 days after the anger had been festering!
FLYBE STATEMENT- Passengers refused boardin
g— Flybe ✈ (@flybe) 2 July 2019
BE110 Amsterdam to Birmingham
Sunday 30th June 2019
A Flybe spokesperson comments as follows: pic.twitter.com/ZYt7rhVsGa
The situation had grown so fast and so quickly, I thought about how hard this must be for Flybe to put out this fire. However, the statement released on the 2nd came too late and too much damage had been done. Even more importantly, the contents of their statement has been received as denial of the claims as opposed to an attempt to understand. Flybe clearly heard their customers but they did not truly understand them hence their response was tone-deaf.
Watching the story unravel as a potential customer who previously had little knowledge about Flybe gave me a really interesting perspective. It became clearer that there are three things more important than ever:
- Customers need to be acknowledge in real time.
- Generalised statements no longer satisfy customers and those invested in the situation online.
- A lot of these big issues are preventable if the root cause of the problem is identified and tackled early on.
Today, the consequences of a bad customer experience are greater than ever. The need to respond in real time has become more essential as once an issue gains momentum it can be difficult to reverse the impact it has had on customers.