Southwest Airlines probably wishes it had not run its promotion to celebrate getting 3 million Facebook likes. But it has proved itself to be expert at managing the social crisis that escalated after an ‘error in the system’ caused customers to be charged multiple times for the same flight
Its press release went live on Friday and announced:
Southwest Airlines is celebrating the Three Million Fan milestone with a special discount offer and a signature "concept" plane dedicated to our fans!
Southwest Airlines was the first airline to reach a million Facebook Fans back in 2010, and now is the first airline worldwide to amass three million Facebook Fans! And while there are a million ways to celebrate, we've decided to offer our fans a special discount available today only!
Fans can get 50 per cent off a round-trip Wanna Get Away Fare simply by using the promotion code: LUV2LIKE.
This promotion code is good through Aug. 3, 2012, 11:59 p.m. PDT and is available for travel 9/5, 9/11, 9/18, 9/25, 10/2, 10/31, and 11/6/12 (seats limited, and some exclusions may apply).
Customers can learn all the details and use the promo code only at http://www.southwest.com/html/promotions/fs-3million-likes.html.
Southwest experienced a much greater response than it had anticipated causing ‘some site performance issues at various times throughout the day’.
Due to the error, some customers were charged multiple times for the same offer flight. Some customers even complained on Facebook that Southwest had emptied their bank accounts.
Southwest apologized to its customers for any inconvenience and is 'proactively cancelling any duplicate itineraries that may have occurred’ It updated its Facebook page to apologise:
Update: Overnight effort resolves issue for Customers who experienced multiple bookings in error.
The overwhelming response from Customers who took advantage of our August 3 limited time offer created website performance issues at various times during the weekend.
Our Employees worked tirelessly to resolve the issue and have confirmed that the duplications are no longer occurring. By initiating an "all hands on deck" approach, we have identified all Customers impacted and proactively initiated refunds back to their financial institutions for any erroneous bookings.
These refunds are currently being processed, but timing will vary depending on the individual bank. If a refund has not yet posted to your account, we recommend contacting your bank – they will be able to provide the quickest update regarding pending refunds.
Here is an overview of our current efforts:
- All erroneous bookings have been identified and refunds are currently being processed for all Customers impacted with duplicate bookings.
- We have heard Customer concerns regarding cancellation of their original reservation and have instructed our Employees to restore the itinerary, honoring the original fare.
- For those Customers who used debit cards and have received overdraft fees as a result of the additional charges, we will process a reimbursement for all overdraft fees that were caused by duplicate charges from Southwest for a single purchase.
If you incurred overdraft fees, please fax documentation of those fees via a letter from your bank or a copy of your account showing the fees to 877-506-0154.
Whilst there are still issues with duplicate bookings and customers who have still to receive refunds for duplicate bookings according to the comments on Facebook, one thing shines out really clearly. Southwest’s crisis management response is superb.
Southwest showed real skill at handling this social media issue. It made sure the customer response team followed up with its customers. Femfresh, on the other hand, shut down its Facebook page when complaints escalated after its branding debacle.
Southwest customers have been leaving mainly positive comments on Southwest’s page:
TravelAgent Rhonda: Just got a call from a SWA customer service agent, just following up to make sure everything was taken care of. Everything was fixed yesterday (thank you SW) - so I thanked her for all her hard work over the past couple of days.
She sounded tired, but was very friendly and professional. SWA has gone above and beyond to fix everything speedily for everyone. I own a company myself, and even on my small scale, I could just imagine the nightmare it would be to have to fix a computer glitch like that. Thank you SWA for taking such good care of your customers!
Sharon Belknap: My phone agent was great. I thought it was my impatience that created the 11 bookings. Her opening line to my query was, "did you book half a plane for yourself?" We both laughed. Yes, used my debit card and there have been challenges with cash flow requiring quick thinking.
But it's ALL about quick thinking and getting back to creating a good life...and for that, Southwest has always been my wingman! Carry on!
Pete Lassen: I had 12 extra flights reserved and called C/S and had almost everything resolved within 2 hrs Thanks SWA. I love flying with you, every flight has been good even.
Although it seems like the customer service agents at Southwest have been working round the clock to fix any issues and resolve customer duplications, not everyone is happy yet.
But Southwest should be congratulated for the open and transparent way that it has handled the system error and tried to get everyone onto the flights that they originally booked.
The 3 million likes promotion seemed to have worked too. Southwest now has over 3,141,000 likes compared to American’s 375,000, United’s 362,000 and Delta’s 353,000 likes.
Southwest must be doing social very well indeed..