Southwest Airlines vs. Kevin Smith – a case study in customer experience and social media

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Director Kevin Smith had a rather unfortunate incident flying on Southwest Airlines, where he was kicked off the plane for (as he tweeted) being “too fat”. I won’t go into exact details here, but you can read all about the incident over at Mashable.

What makes the incident interesting is Southwest’s response online. From their Twitter account (with over 1 million followers) they tweeted responses to Kevin, including requests to Direct Message them so they can be of more help. Southwest also wrote a blog post, with an explanation of the situation and an explicit apology to Kevin Smith.

It was great to see a company embrace Social Media to help sort out  bad customer experience – however the very public disturbance led to a mass conversation playing out across the web. Debates around the incident took place on Southwest’s blog and set Twitter ablaze, with a number of commentors have commended Southwest for their use of social media in handling the situation.

Although Southwest were right to respond to Kevin Smith’s social media rants with social media, it potentially added fuel to the fire by playing the incident out online. As social media develops as a tool for customer service, it will be interesting to see how brands handle more incidents from disgruntled customers with very large online followings.

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