James and Christy flew Spirit for the first time to attend a concert in Atlanta. But due to numerous delays by Spirit, James and Christy didn't arrive in Atlanta in time to attend the concert, which was the only reason for their trip to Atlanta. They documented the problems they encountered with the airline in an email to Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza and a few other workers for the airline. The email is reprinted here.
Here's where the fun starts. Apparently, Baldanza meant to send an internal email to the other members of the airline that James and Christy CCed, but instead hit 'Reply to All' and send the following email to everyone, including James and Christy:
"Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing as far as I'm concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He's never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny."
Oh man! Predictably, this story was already gaining steam as comments were flowing into Alex's blog from fellow Spirit customers that had also received less than stellar service. But this colossal email blunder simply lit the fuse. The Consumerist picked up on it. Then the Chicago Tribune referenced the episode in an article about customer complaints about the airline industry. And if you thought Baldanza's email blunder was bad, check out what Spirit spokeswoman Alison Russell told the paper when asked about James and Christy's complaint:
"We wouldn't respond to a blog post. This goes back to the larger question of the veracity of everything you read on Internet blogs. Our customer service is great."
No Allison, it goes back to the larger issue of when companies ignore their customers, especially their blogging customers, it always comes back to bite them. Baldanza flippantly quipped "Let him tell the world how bad we are". Well you got your wish buddy.
And as Dell found out with 'Dell Hell' refusing to respond to bloggers IS your response. And it's about the worst one you can make. No, scratch that, refusing to comment, and THEN implying that you can't trust what bloggers write is probably the worst reply possible.
And sure enough, Alex's original Do Not Fly Spirit Airlines is now the #2 Google search result for 'Spirit Airlines', behind only the company's website, and ahead of its Wikipedia entry.
Think about that for a moment. Anyone that searches for Spirit Airlines is going to have a post entitled 'Do Not Fly Spirit Airlines' staring them in the face. Now do some guessing at how much money Spirit is going to lose as a result of how they handled this episode.
So what would you tell Spirit that their next move should be to come back from this? Remember that as bad a blunder as Dell Hell was for Dell, 3 years later the company now has an excellent reputation for properly utilizing social media and sites. So if Dell can do it, so can Spirit.
But if you could sit Ben and Allison and the rest of the company's management down, what would you tell them about how they could salvage this situation and correct their actions here?
Hint for Spirit: Notice what I just did, instead of giving you a list of what *I* think you should do, I asked for my community's help. Because the community is ALWAYS smarter than you are. Understanding that is step one.
PS: Thanks to Josh for mentioning this story.
Bonus Link: For the other side of the coin, look what happened when Zappos went out of its way to give excellent customer service to a blogger. Hat tip to Kristen!
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Spirit Airlines