When a complaining consumer starts topping the Google search rankings for your company, perhaps it is time to start taking them seriously?
Who says that blogging is a waste of time? Not me, but then I've been blogging for a while now, admittedly in a professional capacity as a technology journalist rather than the perhaps more usual rant and ramble personal way. Andrew Sharman did the rant thing recently, and oh boy is he glad he did. It seems to have led to him getting a pretty hefty refund from a tour operator after a particularly poor vacation experience in Tunisia.
Sharman sent a letter of complaint to the tour operator, a 10 page letter of complaint no less, but after six weeks had only got the normal thanks for your complaint acknowledgement and nothing appeared to be getting done. So the web developer decided to blog about it.
I've just been reading Andrew Sharman's blog in which he describes at some length just how awful his holiday trip to Tunisia, booked via Thomson holidays, actually was. Under the heading of 'Thomson trip to Tunisia, staying in Marhaba Palace Review' Sharman describes how Tunisia itself is a nice place, but recounts the bad experience he had booking his vacation and actually taking it. He mentions how he was promised a double bed but ended up in a hotel without any double beds at all, how he was told the hotel was popular with his age group but it actually turned out to be a haven for the elderly, and how a day trip to the Sahara was possible when in fact it was an eight hour drive away.
But it gets even worse than that, according to the Sharman blog. He details how the sales representative promised a free drink with every meal on his full board tariff but discovered only expensive drinks at the hotel, and how the beach was filthy and the hotel not a lot better.
After publishing the blog and then Tweeting about it as well, the thing kind of took off. So much so, in fact, that if you Googled for 'Thomson Tunisia trip' or even 'Thomson Tunisia review' instead of getting results from the holiday company itself or glowing reviews of vacations, you got his blog rant ripping them to shreds. Thousands of readers were proving that citizen journalism extends into the world of travel, and corporations can ignore it at their peril.
Sharman then informed Thomson of just how popular the blog entry had become and ended up with a £595 refund on the holiday that had cost him £900 originally. He says that the firm asked him to mention on his blog that he was happy with the way the complaint had been dealt with, but Sharman refused to play ball and instead insisted he would say the complaint was resolved but also explain how that resolution came about. A spokesperson for the tour operator says "all our customers can expect to receive an excellent level of service before, during and after their holiday, regardless of whether or not they publish a blog" - although I'd like to add that, as Mr Sharman's case seems to prove, a good old rant sure doesn't do any harm!