Hell hath no fury like the Twitterati scorned and Air Canada is the latest corporation to have its subpar social media skills exposed thanks to a customer service incident.
an 8-year-old British Columbia boy named Tanner who is dying from a form of muscular dystrophy.
Tomorrow, a charity walk organized for him in New York City’s Central Park will take place with participants wearing tutus, all to raise money to fight muscular dystrophy and help Tanner’s family. In 30 hours, more than $25,000 was raised.
But when Tanner, his mom and his aunt flew to New York on Wednesday, Tanner’s $15,000 custom-made wheelchair was severely damaged. Air Canada apologized and vowed to repair the wheelchair. However, when the family called for an update from their hotel Wednesday night, the airline said it probably couldn’t do anything until Monday.
The matter may be a routine customer service issue–though unfortunately one that involves a sick boy’s wheelchair as opposed to someone’s lost bag–but the entire episode is playing out on Twitter and Facebook. The fact that Air Canada had no communication with the family or their supporters online seems like a prime example of a large brand who simply doesn’t “get it.”
“Things happen, mistakes are made, and originally Air Canada said they would get something to [Tanner’s family] ASAP and then he was just left hanging when no wheelchair showed up, and there was no communication,” said Stratten. “They had to call the 1-800 number because nobody is answering e-mails, Twitter or Facebook. The thing with social media is, the initial outpouring is immediate and if your reaction as a brand isn’t close to immediate, then you’re going to have a hard time putting the lid back on. And really, you’re that big of a corporation and this was tweeted out hundreds and hundreds of times. It’s not like they couldn’t see it because it was one tweet from someone with two followers.”
Stratten himself has more than 60,000 followers and Tutus For Tanner has been promoted by the likes of Twitter celebrity Alyssa Milano, who boasts 969,000 followers.
The situation in which Air Canada finds itself–coverage in national media atop the already brewing social media anger–has clearly exposed the brand’s inability, or reluctance, to communicate on social media platforms.
The airline issued a statement to the Globe and Mail earlier today–”Once we learned the replacement chair was inadequate we got in contact with the family to see what we could do for them”–but for many, it will be way too little, much too late.
Even if the wheelchair wasn’t available until Monday, Air Canada could’ve avoided the resulting PR mess by obeying the simplest of social media tenets of transparency and constant communication. The fact the airline didn’t address this issue on Twitter is even more of a surprise when its Customer Service Platform Twitter account seems to have actively responded to customers in the past.
For now the brand will simply have to play catch-up and hope no one tells Dave Carroll.