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Bloggers gone wrong

Here’s The Economist on bloggers going wrong.

On October 31st Virgin fired 13 of its cabin crew who had posted derogatory comments about its safety standards and some of its passengers on a Facebook forum. Among other things, crew members joked that some Virgin planes were infested with cockroaches and described customers as “chavs”, a disparaging British term for people with flashy bad taste. On November 3rd BA began investigating the behaviour of several employees who had described some passengers as “smelly” and “annoying” in Facebook postings.

Funny, wasn’t it Virgin that sponsored the Delta Airlines blogger that was fired for inappropriate behavior?

It’s still stunning to me that most want to prevent this kind of behavior. Ok, I’m all for not for stereotyping customers in public forums – give them some coaching here. But if I was an executive at Virgin I’d rather hear about cockroaches on planes rather than not at all. And it would tell me something about my culture if this is where I had to go to learn about this stuff.

The irony is that these same companies – who are so concerned about what their employees are saying online pay near no attention to what their customers are speaking about. Here’s a stab on American Airlines who I travel with every few weeks:

  1. The food is disgusting. I dare you to try and get your children to eat it.
  2. Your entertainment system is close to worthless. Go check-out Air New Zealand, Virgin and others. Fix it.
  3. Your employees run on board service in a slightly less friendly way than hospital receptions. Tenure seems to qualify their role, not customer satisfaction.

Lets see if anyone is listening. In a recent blog in which I complained about Air New Zealand and the way they handled loosing my baggage I got a call from their head of baggage services who apologized and explained which of my ideas they were going to implement. Strangely his company policy prevented him from replying to my blog post – I suggested he break the rules and do so – and all credit to him, he did.

At least Air New Zealand was listening. The point of monitoring forums isn’t to prevent employee and customer dialog online but rather to take appropriate action on it, which only in the rarest of rarest occasions will warrant firing someone. BA and Virgin have it wrong. In fact – you want the conversation!

Why in an age of transparency are so many companies looking to muzzle employees rather than unleash conversations? Insight and innovation happens at the edge – and to get at it you have to let the dialogue flow.

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