Calling Your Customers Names and Hoping To Succeed

Star Trek fans still bristle when reminded of William Shatner‘s infamous “get a life” line during a Saturday Night Live skit about the show’s legendary followers.  The actor, who has now appeared in multiple hit series in multiple decades, was accused of turning his back on the ardent fans who propelled his Captain Kirk to iconic status.
Now consider your own business.  Imagine that the local newspaper has come to you and said that a letter to the editor in that very same paper criticized your business.
“Idiotic letter writers,” you blast to the reporter.   “People who write letters to the paper are lunatics!”
Can’t see yourself saying that?   Think you might lose a customer or two? Well, that’s what Ryanair managed to pull off this week.  In a time when Congressional members were using their smart phones to Twitter and live-blog President Obama’s first major speech since taking office, joining 100 million other bloggers, Ryanair officially commented on the company’s view of bloggers:

It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again. Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel

This statement to CNN came after three different Ryanair employees reportedly criticized Jason Roe, an Irish web developer. The above statement to the global news network was reportedly made by Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara, a spokesperson who if the quote is correct, was absent the day Marketing 101 commenced.

100 million plus bloggers active at any time.

Ryanair has hit a wormhole of public relations disaster so deep that not even Captain Kirk can save their ship.  Media expert Nick Peters at CommCore, the company I trust to help before media disasters like this strike, told me within minutes this morning that Ryanair could see a backlash similar to the one that led to the outster of JetBlue founder David Neeleman.

And a final thought.   If you ever find yourself having contempt for a big segment of your customer base, do yourself a favor and stop serving that base.  Life is too short.

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14 comments

  • Nick Peters

    Nick Peters

    Reply

    The folks at RyanAir may want to think back to the "Valentine's Day Massacre" at JetBlue in 2007. The largely web-based airline company failed to respond quickly on its website and to bloggers to its disastrous V-Day cancellation of flights. That failure cost the founder and CEO David Neeleman his job. Saying afterwards that he was "mortified" wasn't enough. The communication training consultancy I work for counsels that you ignore the blogosphere at your peril. Maybe you respond in situations, maybe you don't. But you don't start an unnecessary blanket firestorm by implying online that bloggers are lunatics.

    • George Bounacos

      George Bounacos

      Reply

      See, I knew you would be here and drag JetBlue into the mix. The interesting thing was that JB was a result of not responding. This was an attack. And I remember Neeleman as a media and consumer darling whereas Ryanair has always had an ambivalent public attitude.

      I can't get over the boneheaded move of attacking bloggers. They're smart people who view themselves as the vanguard of new media.

      Can a company like Ryanair pull this out or do they get buried in a firestorm, Nick?

  • Nick Peters

    Nick Peters

    Reply

    The folks at RyanAir may want to think back to the "Valentine's Day Massacre" at JetBlue in 2007. The largely web-based airline company failed to respond quickly on its website and to bloggers to its disastrous V-Day cancellation of flights. That failure cost the founder and CEO David Neeleman his job. Saying afterwards that he was "mortified" wasn't enough. The communication training consultancy I work for counsels that you ignore the blogosphere at your peril. Maybe you respond in situations, maybe you don't. But you don't start an unnecessary blanket firestorm by implying online that bloggers are lunatics.

    • georgebounacos

      georgebounacos

      Reply

      See, I knew you would be here and drag JetBlue into the mix. The interesting thing was that JB was a result of not responding. This was an attack. And I remember Neeleman as a media and consumer darling whereas Ryanair has always had an ambivalent public attitude.

      I can't get over the boneheaded move of attacking bloggers. They're smart people who view themselves as the vanguard of new media.

      Can a company like Ryanair pull this out or do they get buried in a firestorm, Nick?

  • MJ from Buffalo

    MJ from Buffalo

    Reply

    Wow, where does Ryanair fly to and from? Because I want to go to some city where they operate so I can intentionally give my business to another airline there.

    • George Bounacos

      George Bounacos

      Reply

      Ah, but they're over in the old country. And whenever they end up truly selling to Virgin now because of gestures like this, don't boycott Virgin.

  • MJ from Buffalo

    MJ from Buffalo

    Reply

    Wow, where does Ryanair fly to and from? Because I want to go to some city where they operate so I can intentionally give my business to another airline there.

    • georgebounacos

      georgebounacos

      Reply

      Ah, but they're over in the old country. And whenever they end up truly selling to Virgin now because of gestures like this, don't boycott Virgin.

  • Robert Stinnett

    Robert Stinnett

    Reply

    When you ignore the social media, or talk it down, you are just digging your own bankruptcy filing. I don't know what is worse — talking negative about social media or ignoring it altogether. Heck, I wish the company I'm with would just embrace social media period. I keep preaching of the missed opportunity and how this is the new era of marketing but so far no takers.

    • George Bounacos

      George Bounacos

      Reply

      Oh, I think Nick and others would tell us that calling out the Blogging Army by criticizing them is much worse than ignoring them and listening to their complaints. 😀

  • Robert Stinnett

    Robert Stinnett

    Reply

    When you ignore the social media, or talk it down, you are just digging your own bankruptcy filing. I don't know what is worse — talking negative about social media or ignoring it altogether. Heck, I wish the company I'm with would just embrace social media period. I keep preaching of the missed opportunity and how this is the new era of marketing but so far no takers.

    • georgebounacos

      georgebounacos

      Reply

      Oh, I think Nick and others would tell us that calling out the Blogging Army by criticizing them is much worse than ignoring them and listening to their complaints. 😀

  • mjfrombuffalo

    mjfrombuffalo

    Reply

    And another thing!

    After thinking about this a while, the damage is not limited to "those crazy bloggers." I don't have to be a blogger or a twitter or a facebook denizen to read this and be offended – regardless of the format, the truth is someone who deals with your company is unhappy, and the company response should not be "That person is a jerk and I don't give a rat's ass what they think." It is very easy for me to extrapolate from their response that if I were their customer and I were unhappy, I could expect to be disrespected and ignored. Trying to carve out one group of customers and brand them as lunatics you won't waste time with is not effective since many of the larger group of All Customers will not recognize that separation.

  • mjfrombuffalo

    mjfrombuffalo

    Reply

    And another thing!

    After thinking about this a while, the damage is not limited to "those crazy bloggers." I don't have to be a blogger or a twitter or a facebook denizen to read this and be offended – regardless of the format, the truth is someone who deals with your company is unhappy, and the company response should not be "That person is a jerk and I don't give a rat's ass what they think." It is very easy for me to extrapolate from their response that if I were their customer and I were unhappy, I could expect to be disrespected and ignored. Trying to carve out one group of customers and brand them as lunatics you won't waste time with is not effective since many of the larger group of All Customers will not recognize that separation.

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