Virgin America Plays It Too Cool With Angry Customers

When Virgin America made the decision to transition to a new online reservation system, it acknowledged that customers might face some difficulties. After the transition last week, problems began to mount for consumers, who took to Facebook and Twitter to voice their complaints. The reaction from Virgin America, though, seems to have come from another planet. A Virgin America spokesperson said that customers and staff were, in fact, happy with the change and that they were experiencing minimal problems with a “smooth transition,” according to CBS News.

If the goal was to inflame customers, the strategy worked. One commenter wrote on Virgin's Facebook page in response: "It's well known that a trust in a company is often measured less on how few failures they make and more on how they respond to those failures. Right now, if you pay reasonable attention, you can see you are treading on dangerously thin trust."

The minimal problems referred to by the Virgin spokesperson include hourlong call-waiting times with no resolution, being hung up on, being unable to access the company’s Web site and, in the case of one unlucky passenger, being charged nine times for the same flight. When Virgin announced that it had fixed the Web site, many customers disputed the claim by responding that they still couldn’t access the site or change/cancel reservations.

Admittedly, Virgin had tried to brace its customers for some difficulties related to the system change by warning them that its Web site might be down for 12 to 24 hours. However, the persistence of these problems has infuriated customers, and it was a misstep by Virgin America to minimize the intensity of the anger. There's nothing to be gained with that tactic. Virgin America has worked hard and successfully to present itself as an edgy and cool brand, but in this case a little warmth and understanding was in order.