Travel probs? Get bitter on Twitter

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 05:00 06/04/2014
Basil Fawlty
NOT WELCOME: Basil Fawlty and his infamous brand of 'hospitality' would have given guests plenty to talk about on Twitter.

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The arrivals hall is stifling hot. Everybody is jousting for position by the bags carousel. They have been waiting 90 minutes for their luggage. The airline's call centre has holding times to match.

The polite travellers grizzle to their partners. The dumb travellers blame any uniformed person who remotely resembles an authority. The smart travellers are posting and tweeting from their phones.

It'll soon be common practice to pre-empt an assertive phone call ("What do you mean my bags are still in Brisbane?") with a social media blitz. Granted, you are going to have to speak with the airline, hotel or tourist operator to correct your issue, but a social media sound-off is not a bad place to start.

Last year, an aggrieved British Airways passenger went so far as to pay to promote a message criticising BA for losing his father's baggage, as if it were advertising. It was seen or retweeted over 25,000 times, much to the airline's horror, I'm sure.

Although you don't have to mimic this expensive example of social media shaming, don't just think your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts are for uploading holiday snaps. If your complaints are genuine then posting a public complaint to the company's social media pages will prompt a solution.

Former Expedia.com digital marketing manager Dacey Nicoletti said corporate social media pages were initially homages to their brands, with marketing gimmicks and beautiful photographs.

In the last few years however, the playing field between company and consumer has levelled: One tourist's bad flight, night or meal can be seen worldwide and companies are now held publicly accountable across social media.

So, if you're left more than a little unimpressed by a grotty hotel bathroom or long-delayed flight, remember: It's the squeaky wheel that gets the oil, particularly if that squeaky wheel has thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook friends that will "like" and "share" your post.

Marketing guru Sarah Robb-O'Hagan said large companies in particular employed "social media managers" to monitor how their brand was perceived, and smart tourist companies resolved complaints efficiently to get them resolved offline.

An angry tweet may not get your delayed flight in the air faster or room upgraded every time (as many company social media pages are littered with complaints), but travel industry insiders say it fast-tracks your complaint to a successful resolution, faster than a phonecall or email. The alternative is your complaint encourages a boycott or damages the company's brand.

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However, social media complaints can be over-baked and the power resides in having the support of the online community. So a few pointers if you are new to the world of social media smearing.

Be accurate. Getting the details exact, without exaggeration, means you cannot be undermined by other users or the operator.

Be respectful. The anonymity of the internet encourages colourful language and excessive caps-lock use. Resist this urge.

Ask what a reasonable person would expect? Airplane staff can't make fog disappear and ferries can't operate in storm surges, so whingeing about these events doesn't elicit sympathy. But a company's poor handling of a delay can.

- Sunday Star Times

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