Lessons from British Airways: How to Prevent and Manage Negative Online Reviews


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“Don’t fly with @BritishAirways. They can’t keep track of your lug­gage.” So read the tweet from Hasan Syed, frus­trated with how the air­line han­dled his father’s lost lug­gage. Syed was so upset that he spent $1,000 to pro­mote his com­plaints on Twit­ter. That form of paid adver­tis­ing put his tweets in front of an expanded audi­ence, which rapidly gen­er­ated a whirl­wind of neg­a­tive online pub­lic­ity for the air­line. And while British Air­ways ulti­mately found the lug­gage and apol­o­gized, the dam­age was done. The com­plaint had gone viral. For British Air, the only recourse was dam­age control.

It’s a new age of cus­tomer ser­vice in the age of social media, one where online reviews can help or hurt rev­enues. Here are some valu­able cus­tomer ser­vice lessons from the British Air­ways experience.

  • Mon­i­tor your brand’s online rep­u­ta­tion. Set up Google or Yahoo! alerts to get notices on men­tions of your brand/business in blog posts, news arti­cles and videos. Explore free tools like Board­Reader, which mon­i­tors dis­cus­sion forums, or Social Men­tion. There are plenty of free online rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment tools available.
  • Take com­plaints seri­ously. Help your cus­tomer ser­vice staff under­stand every com­plaint is impor­tant. Let your cus­tomers know you appre­ci­ate their busi­ness through the amount of time and atten­tion you pro­vide to them. Fol­low the prin­ci­ples of cus­tomer care for a suc­cess­ful inter­ac­tion every time.
  • Resolve prob­lems quickly. A cou­ple of hours can be a long time in the social media uni­verse. Think of how quickly posts can esca­late. It’s impor­tant to reach out to your dis­grun­tled cus­tomer as soon as pos­si­ble. Let cus­tomers know what to expect and when. Keep them informed every step of the way. Con­tact them even when there is no update to assure them you are work­ing on the problem.
  • Offer up a value-added prod­uct or ser­vice. Give your cus­tomer a dis­count on future ser­vice, or another acknowl­edge­ment of appre­ci­a­tion, show­ing you value his/her busi­ness and encour­ag­ing them to return.
  • Address the trend behind the com­plaint. If one cus­tomer is com­plain­ing about a bad expe­ri­ence, chances are it’s a trend. Deter­mine whether the com­plaint is a symp­tom of a larger prob­lem. Resolve that issue and you’ve just accom­plished the ulti­mate in cus­tomer ser­vice: pre­vent­ing issues before cus­tomers become upset. It takes a lot less time and money to pre­vent prob­lems than it does to han­dle them once a cus­tomer is ticked off.
  • Pro­mote the pos­i­tive. Ask now-satisfied cus­tomers to post follow-up reports online in the same forum as the orig­i­nal com­plaint. Encour­age pos­i­tive reviews from all of your cus­tomers, includ­ing those who did not reg­is­ter com­plaints. Ask for cus­tomer feed­back at the point of sale and pro­vide a place online for them to share it. You can fur­ther encour­age reviews by enter­ing cus­tomers in a monthly give­away or pro­vid­ing other incentives.

Remem­ber that neg­a­tive online reviews hap­pen. By putting the cus­tomer first, and con­cen­trat­ing on cus­tomer ser­vice sat­is­fac­tion, you’ll be able to emerge with an impec­ca­ble online reputation.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jodi Beuder
We help organizations create a positive connection between customers and brands. We promote synergy through integration as it builds on the decades of collective history of renowned expertise. MHI Global is your comprehensive source for customer-management excellence solutions to compete in today's ever-changing, customer-centric environment.


  1. Although BA have owed me a refund for over 3 months, and despite legal action, letters, emails and phone calls they seem incapable of showing any concern or regret whatsoever.

    I have been posting daily tweets with #BritishAirways for the last week out of frustration, but that doesn’t seem to register with BA either. Also on Facebook

    I am now beginning to wonder if they really exist, they just don’t seen to give a s**t.

    Maybe the lady in customer services processes the cheques when she isn’t responding to complaints, which is assume is not very often,


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