Recently, the air in the blogosphere has been, well, stormy to say the least. It all started when Dubliner web designer Jason Roe claimed to have discovered a bug in the booking site, which allowed customers to pay £0.00 for their flights.
CC Image Credit: Nicola Corboy – Flickr
Whether this works or not (and consensus is that it does not), it appears some enthusiastic Ryanair staff members took it all rather personally.
As a provider of online reputation management services, I have to say this exemplified how not to respond to online criticism. As an avid browser of various blogs, I have to say this was one of the funniest things I have read in a long time.
So, for those wishing to learn from the Ryanair debacle, here are the top five points I will be taking away from this.
Ryanerror number one: Allowing self-appointed brand ambassadors
You cannot control what your staff do online, anymore than you can control what they do in the pub, and nor should you try to.
However, that may mean reminding some staff not to define themselves online as being your employees, because the second they do, they are ambassadors for your brand.
It is never a good tactic for a brand ambassador to open discussions with an active blogger using the following salutation: “jason! you’re an idiot and a liar!!”
A clause in employees’ contracts requesting they do not to anything to discredit the brand may have saved the budget airline some embarrassing coverage, although, this mess did show the Ryanair staff care… Care a lot in fact!
Ryanerror number two: Getting personal
Now, the staff member or members responsible for this tirade were, one would hope, not marketing staff tasked with engaging the public via social networks, so I cannot blame the airline for this.
However, should you decide to respond to bloggers in the future, it is a good tip to stay polite and friendly, even when responding to harsh criticisms.
As a general rule, comments such as: “what self respecting developer uses a crappy CMS such as word press anyway AND puts they’re (sic) mobile ph number online, i suppose even a prank call is better than nothing on a lonely sat evening!!” are not the way to go.
Ryanerror number three: Failing to acknowledge criticisms
Not everything works all the time and on occasion, there will be justifiable criticisms of you online, particularly if you are a larger brand.
When these unfortunate instances occur, the only way to react is calmly, with a measured: “Thanks for pointing this out, we’ll look into it.”
It is not a good idea to make excuses or engage in online battles.
An especially bad way to deal with criticisms is Ryanair Staff #3′s slightly more pugnacious approach. “Website is not perfect, Life is not perfect…”
It, ah, doesn’t inspire confidence.
Ryanerror number four: Slating customers at large
Okay, so Mister Roe criticised the website and that clearly hurt the feelings of the staff in question. I can forgive them for their pride in their work; it’s quite reassuring, really.
However, any chance the Ryanair folk had of winning the public to their side was thrown out of the window when they used their comments to insult customers at large.
“Offensive aggression of customers depends on customer’s ignorance, Ryanair restrictions, Ryanair policy, strictness and low prices as lower the prices are more people are travelling (sic) with bigger intellectual diversity.”
Oh dear, Ryanair staff #3. I struggle to follow your sentence, but I don’t think you’re being complimentary about your customers.
Ryanerror number five: Making a poor official response
Well, the blog situation was bad. It was picked up on by the national press, it was covered by a great many bloggers and it was laughed at in at least five different countries.
So naturally Ryanair had to make an official response. The corporation had to take the bull by the horns and directly address the issue of its staff bitching on blogs.
The company really got behind its employees, which was admirable. The company did so by insulting the blogosphere at large, which was not.
“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion.
“It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.
“Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel.”
Idiot bloggers? Lunatic bloggers? The ‘blog sphere’?
A handy tip for any newbie marketers out there – an aggressive response rarely makes a company sound professional.