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Servicing Customers Socially

What Measures Should Airline Companies be Taking After Indigo Dispute?

IndiGo Airlines has been on the spot for the last few days, and more incidents of mishaps have just added fuel to the already raging fire. It’s almost like IndiGo is going through a rough phase and competitors are taking much advantage of the situation. Over the last few days IndiGo has been charged with manhandling one of their passengers at the Delhi airport. This was followed by news about carelessness of ground staff, leading to a woman being injured as she fell from a wheelchair while being ferried across the airport of Lucknow. Following this, another incident of a customer’s laptop emitting smoke inside an aircraft on flight came to light, questioning the airlines’ security check procedure. Although the final incident could have been the fault of the laptop brand, with an ongoing uproar about IndiGo it became easier for people to blame the airlines company.

Over the years, Indigo has been known and praised for their impeccable service, however one incident is enough to bring a whole brand down in minutes. This is an illustration of the power that social media holds, in today’s date, towards making or breaking your brand. While all of this was happening with IndoGo, AirAsia India had another story to tell. A woman complained of being harassed and misbehaved with by both on flight and ground personnel. However, the airlines had a different story to tell. In their defence, they confirmed that they only followed the protocols of handling an unruly customer. Both parties filed complaints with the police and the case it yet to be decided upon.

This has also led to competitors taking advantage of the situation and marketing their own brand, although on second reference, they have pulled down their content defaming Indigo. Here, we are talking about Air India, who have recently been in multiple controversies themselves. Take a look:

The Real Problem:

What we see and read about on news and social media is only a part of the damage that has been caused to a brand. Of course, incidents like these take a big hit on the brand’s image, but the impact is much more. This is not a case, restricted to the airlines industry. The wrath that Indigo is facing from it’s customers is comparable to the “Maggi crisis”. The incident has impacted the brand’s customer base so hard, that social media is overflowing with anger, sarcasm, petty jokes on the brand and threats as well. Although the brand has apologized, the wrath of words continues. Social media has been populated by hate posts and trolls around the brand on posts relevant and irrelevant to the situation. For example, Indigo’s innocent post around children’s day faced something like this:

This incident has not just made the lives of their social customer service executives difficult, but also presented a whole new challenge for the marketing team. Many creative minds have left the closets and are working on creating memes to defame the company, making it difficult for the brand’s marketing team to combat the situation. For example:

Indigo had to send out disclaimers to ensure more haters don’t climb the ladder to abuse the brand about wrong branding. In fact, over the last few days the brand’s sales have also taken a hit, with many people cancelling their pre-booked flights or opting to not choose Indigo as their choice of airlines for their future travels. So much so, that all the marketing endeavors by IndiGo are failing. Here’s an example:

What needs to be done?

Combating crisis situations like these, where clearly the brand is at fault can be difficult and needs differentiation from the regular situation. Here’s a list of dos for brands to deal with such situations:

  1. Do not try to justify yourself. It is best to apologize and keep apologizing till the wrath fades.
  2. People are going to be talking about problems they might have faced in the past as well (that’s human nature to go with the flow). The best way to deal with this is to provide quick responses and try to resolve as many problems as possible.
  3. Adopting the right marketing ways. Of course, people are going to condemn all your marketing endeavours, but the idea is to not retaliate and keep boosting content which is eventually going to make a difference. Providing offers in such situations might not be the greatest idea! (Hope you are listening Indigo)
  4. Keeping a close eye on any complaints which might escalate quickly (real time monitoring) and combating the same quickly.
  5. Providing details of what happened after the incident. Staying in touch with the customers and providing them with pieces of information as the incident reaches a conclusion increases brand transparency and helps restore faith.
  6. Don’t ignore the positive customers! Among the lot of people who are seemingly complaining and abusing your brand, will be a handful of customers who would also be saying wonderful things about you. Engage with them and keep them active to maintain a balanced brand image.

Interestingly, while Indigo has tried to tackle the situation as calmly and intelligently as possible, AirAsia seems to have taken a dig on it’s complaining customer, justifying themselves to be right. However, unlike IndiGo, AirAsia’s conduct has not been blown out of proportion on social media considering its lesser presence in the country.

In conclusion, it’s not enough to respond quickly or run great campaigns. The idea is to align your initiatives with your customer’s sentiment by understanding the conversations floating in the media, because “social media” especially today carries a higher share of your brand’s stakes.