Case Study: British Airways Twitter & Social Media Help

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Key Insights:

  1. When British Airways (BA) receive a confidential enquiry via a tweet or post on a social media site, or have something to deal with that might cause a bit of controversy on their timeline, they offer to deal with the issue either via DM, on the phone, or in person. This often takes the heat of out of things and makes it easier to resolve it 
  2. BA don’t use Facebook, Instagram or other social channels for dealing with specific enquiries. Instead they signpost to Twitter, specific customer service representatives, or encourage users to call
  3. Look at BA’s polite and clear communications, especially with frustrated or angry customers. It often takes the heat out of an issue

Although we all know that sitting behind a screen can change some of the normal rules of human interaction (people will commonly lose their temper a lot quicker for example), a particularly good example of how to operate a Twitter help channel – and other social channels to field and direct enquiries – is those running British Airways’ (BA) Twitter account (below, right).

BA’s Facebook Page (left) and Twitter Help Channel (right)

They deal with thousands of enquiries a week, and their response to angry people in a calm and measured way is an example to anyone running an account. It’s also worth remembering that the enquiries or complaints are invariably about people’s holidays being disrupted, so a lot of queries will probably from particularly frustrated people.

BA often direct people to use the Direct Message (DM) function so that they can go into more detail with customers. This is a good way of also tackling issues that might be a bit more tricky or confidential, and can reduce the temperature of the discussion where people are becoming frustrated. They also sometimes direct people to the phone line or a specific customer service representative.

On Facebook and Instagram, BA use these pages/accounts as a way of funnelling and sorting. They respond directly to people, but predominantly to signpost the best way to contact BA in order to have their enquiry dealt with properly – including directing them to Twitter or to the phoneline. This is a good idea because social accounts like Instragram and Facebook are have a more traditional messageboard comment ‘thread’, much more difficult to engage in one-on-one interactions with users.

The best way to think about using Twitter as a help channel is to imagine it as a phoneline, or a kiosk/enquiries window at the stadium: people are calling or approaching you with real issues or problems that they need resolving. If you ignored them, it would be like failing to answer the club enquiry line, or ignoring someone when they approach you at a match.

What a Twitter help channel like this also needs is the right member of staff, empowered to be able to either answer directly, or pass the issue to another part of the club depending on what it is. Episode one of the Fan Engagement Pod with Dan McGeachie, where he cited BA, looks at how clubs often operate their Twitter account as a broadcast channel to pump out content, or those running the accounts act as though the channels are their own domain, by perhaps preventing wider use of the channel by SLOs or other staff where relevant. Clubs also scored less on dialogue in the Fan Engagement Index where they didn’t have a help or SLO channel (66 didn’t!.)

In order to differentiate between the main club channel – which will have a lot of Marcomms output about matches, merchandising or ticketing – we advise setting up a separate, standalone channel, or working with your SLO to make theirs the place to go for enquiries if that’s not possible.

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