Within the past several weeks both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have both received negative publicity due to the way they handled customers.
American Airlines left 138 people stranded on the tarmac at Austin, TX for nine hours while they waited for weather to clear in Dallas. AA´s flight center repeatedly denied the pilot´s request to either let them take off or to let them pull up to a gate and let the passengers off. Finally, the pilot took the initiative and pulled up to an empty gate. AA´s response was to issue an apology, an offer for a $500 travel voucher, and to start an investigation.
At Southwest, an overweight customer (a "Customer of Size" in airline parlance) was denied boarding unless he bought another ticket. Allegedly, he didn´t have the money and he was attempting to fly to San Francisco for medical treatment. Or was he? Southwest says it was his "return" trip and that several of the blog posts about the incident are wrong. (Apparently including the destination.)
When something goes wrong, and negative buzz starts up in the blogosphere, an organization with a blog is better positioned to quiet that buzz than an organization that does not have one.
Notice that the majority of the comments not only support SW, but several of them defends the company against others who criticize them. When I Googled "´Southwest Airlines´ + "Customer of Size´" 19 results popped up with the first one being SW´s blog post addressing the issue.
When I Googled "American Airlines + Flight 1348" I received 83 results, none of them a response from American (although some of them link to news articles giving AA´s side of the story and mentioning an apology).
The blogosphere is too big to ignore any more. Southwest is in much better position to calm the negative buzz about its incident that American is.
In reading over various blog posts, the impression I have is that American Airlines doesn´t care and that Southwest does. Southwest´s blog puts a personal face on the incident, American, by not having a blog, doesn´t have that option. "Impersonal" and "corporate" are the words that come to mind when I think of AA´s reaction.
I don´t believe that every business needs a blog. But many businesses can strengthen customer loyalty and attract new customers by having a blog. Then, when faced with negative publicity in the blogosphere, that business has an additional tool at its disposal to present its side of the story.
Do you have a blog?