A Tale From First Class: My Complaints And Gripes
I recently flew first class from New York to London. I was immediately impressed when I boarded and saw my seat, one of those private pods that folds down into a horizontal bed. The flight attendant greeted me warmly, gave me a hot towel, and handed me a menu full of delicious-sounding food choices. This, I thought, is going to be a flight to remember. Unfortunately, a series of service glitches quickly tainted my experience.
First, for breakfast, the flight attendant brought me a croissant. It was soft and cold, not warm and flaky.
Then the attendant served me coffee a full 15 minutes before breakfast was served. By the time the meal hit my tray, the coffee was cold. Did anyone come by to refresh it or offer to warm it for me? Nope.
In an attempt to remedy that situation, I pressed my call button to attract the flight attendant’s attention. It took two minutes—two whole minutes!—for the flight attendant to respond. Why am I paying for first class if they’re not going to be efficient enough to respond to a first class passenger’s needs more efficiently?
To help distract myself from the poor service, I rented a movie. Guess what? The pilot and flight crew continually interrupted the movie with announcements. Don’t they know it’s hard to get into a movie if people keep talking over it?
Okay, I have a confession. With the exception of the fact that I was fortunate enough to ride first class to London (that’s really my seat above), nothing in the introduction above is true.
But I wanted to lead off this piece with that litany of complaints to ask you a few questions:
- How did the introduction to this piece make you feel? Like I’m a whiner with a disturbing sense of entitlement?
- Did your impression of me dim as you read it?
- Are you ever guilty of lodging those types of complaints using social media?
Perhaps you don’t take to your social media pages to gripe that way, but I often observe people posting tweets like these:
Hey, @United, we landed 25 minutes ago and we’ve been sitting at the gate without being allowed to deplane. Guess your staff is on break? #Incompetent
Hey, @Delta, what’s up with flight 842? It’s already been delayed by 45 minutes—you can’t even keep flights on time during good weather? #morons
Those tweeters should think about whether those petty complaints come at some small cost to their reputations.
Whenever I see one of those tweets, I think to myself, “With all of the problems in the world, that 25-minute delay is worth an angry tweet to a network of thousands of professional contacts? It’s airline travel. Stuff goes wrong. You should know that by now. Get over it.”
I know that sounds strident, so it’s only fair to turn the pen against myself. I’ve been guilty of sending similar tweets. As an example, I sent an unnecessarily snide tweet to AT&T last year for assessing a late charge because I inadvertently shorted the payment by a few cents.
The issue with my AT&T tweet wasn’t the “rightness” of my complaint—I thought then and still think now that assessing a late fee for an underpayment of a few cents is a lousy way to treat a long-term customer with a perfect payment history. Rather, it was the snaky tone I used. There was no reason for me to begin with such antagonism, particularly because they responded quickly to me and remedied the situation. I imagine the tone I used was off-putting not only to the AT&T rep who amiably fixed my problem, but to a few people who follow my tweets—and rightly so.
Social media offers a wonderful platform for customers and companies to speak with one another. All I’m suggesting here is that you remember the company you’re tweeting is only one audience you’re reaching. You’re also reaching everyone else who sees and judges the tone of your posts and the manner in which you deal with life’s minor annoyances.
What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Awesome post as always. I’d be jealous about your first-class flight if I weren’t absolutely certain every plane that lifts off the ground will return in a mangled ball of fire (yeah, I have flying issues). But you’re right when it comes to social media users needing to consider how their levels of snark reflect upon themselves.
But as you have mentioned in the past, the snark and attitude also offers companies an avenue into customer service, community building and branding. In several MMTB posts, there have been examples of companies using social media as an opportunity to embrace the snark as a way of demonstrating publicly how they consider their customers as valuable and important. In this fashion, the news story then becomes a positive for the company, thus enhancing and strengthening their brands.
There will always be those who post before they think — especially when they are mad or feel wronged in some way. Not sure that will ever really go away. But if service providers and companies will authentically and positively engage with them, the result can become a customer-service/PR win-win. But it requires a planned social policy, sincere engagement, and authentic actions to be effective.
Still loving the blog!
P.S. For my own bit of snark, I’m right there with you on AT&T after one of their store employees tried stealing my identity.
Thanks for your comment!
You’re absolutely right that customer complaints are often opportunities for brands to respond in a manner that exceeds our expectations. My expectation is for brands to act professionally, and they are rightly lambasted when they fall short of that minimum requirement. But lately, I’ve been thinking about the responsibility of those of us who interact with brands. It’s easy to be snarky, forgetting that real people — who are often doing the best they can to help, often under challenging circumstances — are working behind the scenes.
We have every right to complain when there’s reason to do so. My suggestion is a) To make sure the manner in which we do that represents us well, and 2) That the complaint is substantial enough to warrant our outrage.
Glad you’re still enjoying the blog!
I so agree with you. It’s important to think about what you are trying to accomplish. Social media is certainly a legitimate way to contact a company regarding a complaint. But there are complaints and then there are gripes. People with gripes or who are looking to let off steam are the ones we judge (badly). Another thing to consider is that Twitter archives tweets and they are searchable. If most of you tweets are silly gripes, you are definitely going to look bad. I knew a woman who was obviously upset with her condo building and tweeted that real estate agents should stay away. I pointed out to her that that type of tweet would come back to haunt her if she ever decided to sell her place. She wasn’t thinking. But then again, angry, upset people don’t think rationally, and therein lies the danger of the easy accessibility of social media.
Thanks for writing this!