A complaint made to Thomas Cook about a hotel in Turkey has sparked debate on the power of social media to get customers’ problems solved or escalated.
Joanna Longbottom’s took to Facebook where she described a room at a Hisaronu property as a ‘boghole’ and claimed she had been ‘fobbed off’ after complaining in resort.
Her post went viral, being shared 55,000 times and attracting 10,000 comments.
Without naming the hotel, she said: “This ‘family’ room has a campbed that is a) too short for a 12 year old b) requires a tetanus injection to go near it and c) is louder than a freight train when any movement is attempted on or near it.”
Mrs Longbottom also complained that the balcony could only fit one chair and that she’d been kept awake by until 4am by staff rearranging sun loungers and the sound of wolves howling.
After encouraging friends to share the post, she said she had already privately emailed Thomas Cook threatening a Facebook post but was told ‘you can do what you like’.
“Oh dear Mr Cook … could that have been a monumental error on your part ?? Dick Turpin had the common decency to wear a mask, you can’t even be bothered to do that,” she added.
An updated post was later added through which Mrs Longbottom said the problem had been taken “very seriously” and resolved. She also said she had negotiated a part-refund.
Cook confirmed that she was shown other hotels but chose to stay at the unnamed property after being given a different room.
Steve Dunne, CEO of digital strategy consultants Digital Drums, said customers are increasingly taking to social media to air their complaints, prompting firms to employ dedicated teams.
He said: “Amongst specific segments of the population, complaining about a brand on platforms such as Twitter is now seen as a legitimate tactic to get your complaint treated seriously and quickly. It’s a sort of name and shame culture and definitely gives the consumer the whip hand when it comes to resolving an issue. It can also very quickly lead to what is known as a Twitter Storm which can suddenly have many other consumers joining in and can quickly get out of control – damaging the brand’s reputation greatly”.
When Travolution contacted Thomas Cook, we were told that complaints on social media are not dealt with any differently than those made directly in resort and said that in Mrs Longbottom’s case it was already being looked into in resort. The spokesman also suggested that Mrs Longbottom was surprised at the traction her complaint received online.
He added: “We have a social media tam working day and night. It’s a way for our customers to get in touch but the traditional method of grabbing one of the reps to sort the issue out is not treated any differently.”
He pointed out that Thomas Cook has a 24-hour Hotel Satisfaction Promise at many hotels, which entitles customers to look at other options if they are not satisfied.
Steve Dunne said firms are seeing a rise in public customer complaints online.
“Many mainstream brands, such as utilities, telephone companies and retailers now see the vast majority of complaints against them being raised in the social media space first, rather than through other routes,” he said.
“Indeed, the growth of hate sites, anti sites, spoof sites and blogs attacking a brand’s reputation is almost an industry.
“The strategy for travel brands, when this happens, is to try and get the consumer to go into the direct message mechanism or to give a phone number to talk to someone – thus taking the issue out of the public arena. But beware, a sizeable chunk of consumers will resist this as they will often want to have their fight in public.”
He suggests keeping the discussion – and the resolution – public, concluding: “The key for the travel brand is to resolve the problem if possible and then thank, publicly, in the social media space, the consumer for raising it or resolving it. This can often turn the perception of the brand around and promote its reputation too.”