By Alex Hale
In what seems like a scenario straight out of the Tom Hanks film The Terminal, one traveler, James Lloyd, came across a flight plan with – wait for it – a 47-year-long layover in Bangkok.
Yes, that’s right. The British site Skyscanner.net offered Lloyd airfare from Christchurch, New Zealand, to London, England with one surprisingly long Thai layover in the middle: 413,786 and 25 minutes.
And you thought four hours in Newark was rough.
So, like many frustrated consumers, Lloyd took to social media, albeit humorously, and posted on Skyscanner’s Facebook page.
What was incredible was the Skyscanner social media representative’s equally humorous response.
Clearly this is a benign bug or glitch somewhere in Skyscanner’s interface. The company wasn’t actually suggesting a 47-year-long layover. Furthermore, the goof didn’t inconvenience Lloyd. Still, there was an issue in the program all the same.
Skyscanner very well could have resolved the issue with a robotic, “Hello, thank you for alerting us about the problem. We are attending to the issue presently.”
But that’s lame. So, so lame.
Instead, Skyscanner (and Jen specifically) capitalized upon a really great opportunity to add a human touch to their social media account and, in the process, ended up with a viral story on their hands.
There’s a great lesson to be learned here: glitches and issues like this will come up every so often and it’s important for brands to spin them in the most positive way possible (seems pretty basic, right? Many drop the ball, though). This means carefully injecting some tasteful humor into a response when appropriate. Why? It’s appreciated, unexpected and makes a company shine amidst a stereotypically unhelpful and cold customer service experience.
In the case of Skyscanner, a British site, it has literally meant free advertising in a relatively new market. Dozens of news outlets and sites picked up the story, including: The Telegraph, House Beautiful, The Huffington Post, Travel and Leisure, The Daily Mail and many more.
The tricky part is making sure a cheeky response is tasteful, which should be a case-by-case determination. Consider the possible response to recent delays by British Airways. In at least 27 airports, British Airways passengers faced long lines and delays. A situation like that would not be the time to post, “On the bright side, all British Airways passengers will get a little bit longer to enjoy the cities they’re in!”
Oh, no. That would not be well received in the least.
So, when it comes to social media especially, look out for opportunities to capitalize upon situations like the Skyscanner example. They offer the opportunity to be creative, to add a personal touch to online customer service, and, in some cases, to benefit from some free notoriety.