It is a well know fact that customer satisfaction can have significant impact on the business bottom line. So when we hear that a company goes bankrupt, we, as customer satisfaction professionals, should check how the company was perceived in the marketplace. Consumers do have a choice.

According to a report, published in October, 2011,  by Amplicate on US airlines, American Airlines was Americas most hated airline on social media for the previous 12 months.

Amplicate’s study has another interesting statistic. Social media users posted 30,785 opinions on US airlines in the last 12 months and they were  shared 29,437,012 times.  Look at those numbers. Social media comments spread at the rate of  almost 1000 to 1. That’s a case study on how powerful social media is!

Airlines in general did not fare well in the Amplicate study, but some fared better than others. Only 43% of the comments about US airlines in the past 12 months were positive.  That means 57% were negative or neutral.

In the negative category were

1. American Airlines

2. United

3. Delta

4. US Airways

5. Spirit

American Airlines was the worst. Only 12% of the comments about American Airlines were positive. That means almost 90% were negative?  The customer complaints about American Airlines on social media included bad customer service and canceled flights.

Some airlines did well in the Amplicate report, so it is possible for an airline to please their customers. The best comments on Social Media in the past 12 months for US airlines were for

1. Virgin America

2. Jet Blue

3. Southwest

Interesting, another source of data, the American Customer Satisfaction Index shows that American Airlines, Delta, US Airways and United Airlines all rank in the top ten most hated companies in America. Is it any wonder that Delta, US Airways and United filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in previous recessions? Could there be a connection here?

Monitoring social media for customer sentiment is important but that in itself will not solve an organization’s problems. Listening to the problems, doing causal analysis, and fixing the root causes of the customer issues are necessary actions to resolve customer issues.

Even then, the good news will travel slowly.  It will take time before customers will NOTICE that their complaints have been heard and acted on. When they do, (and they feel their new experience is not just a ‘one of a kind’) consumers will start to share those observations on social media as well. The good news travels more slowly because customers want to see if the change is consistent or just a short term blip.

What is your opinion? Do you think customer dissatisfaction cause American Airlines to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy?

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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