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Digital engagement needs to be quick, factual and sincere

Jack Loo | March 14, 2012
APICTS conference highlights the importance of communicating with customers in the social media and digital space.

Singapore Airlines' booking system woes last year became a case study on how businesses can react to online customer negativity at the Asia Pacific ICT Summit (APICTS) yesterday.

During a panel discussion on the topic of digital engagement, moderator Roger Yuen, CEO, Clozette, asked fellow panelists, in the case of Singapore Airlines, on how businesses can react against negative comments online.

"They just reacted too late," said Charles Pownall, managing director & lead digital strategist, Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific. He pointed out that the CEO of Singapore Airlines posted a letter of apology only two months after the problems with the booking systems first surfaced.

The lengthy delay in fixing the issue also made the airline appear as if it did not listen to its customers, he added.

In May last year, Singapore Airlines revamped its website and booking system. But users found their personal data being deleted and members of its frequent flyer programme also saw their reservation details disappear.

"You need to move fast and always be factual," said Pownall. He recommended that businesses facing such situations also need to be honest and sincere in their communications. "People want to react to people, not to organisations," he added.

Horrendous Experience

Computer vendor Dell also faced the same issues Singapore Airlines had some six years back, described Damien Cummings, online & social media director - consumer & SMB, Dell. "It was what the IT industry described as 'Dell Hell'," he said.

"We had a horrendous customer service experience and we got absolutely hammered in social media," said Cummings. He described how Michael Dell came back to his CEO role and decided to transform the company from top down. "We had to own customer service and social media," he added.

The organisation's reactive measures include training all Dell employees on how to use social media, and the setting up of a social media command centre to listen to the "25,000 online conversations on the Dell brand every day".

"We trained employees not to be afraid of social media and always engage our customers," said Cummings.

APICTS is jointly organised by Singapore infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) and MediaCorp VizPro International. The theme for this year's event is on how organisations can achieve digital engagement successfully.

 

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