VirginBlue fails Marketing with Velocity Gold Upgrade

velocity-rewards-logoEveryone loves a free lunch so on at 5:01pm on a Friday afternoon it was great to receive a personalised thank you email from VirginBlue’s Velocity Membership program.
Virgin is known for smart and effective marketing campaigns so this did not appear to be too much of a stretch to be true. The email promised a free upgrade to “gold” membership for one year FREE!

virgin-gold-email

Checking all the details, the membership number was correct as was my details and the email address it was sent too.  I have been travelling a bit more lately so it appeared possible that it might be real.
While the email seemed almost too good to be true, clicking on the link too me too the correct website pages and everything seemed legit.  It wasn’t until I watch a tweet from BenGrubb which I later discovered was correct.  His quick post on the issue outlined that VirginBlue had blamed an IT error for the gold upgrade.
twitter
Watching some of the initial reactions from Twitter before and after they sent the apology email did not seem to quell the dissatisfaction felt by the Velocity member’s who received the email. Some of the reactions were understanding but many brought up issues of anger and dissatisfaction with Virgin’s response to the issue.  Some of the later tweets discussed the issue of members being spammed as they have previously un-subscribed from Velocity email marketing lists.
@jameswilliams90 – @virginblue take personal responsibility and stop blaming the date Fri 13th for your bulk email gold upgrade debacle! #fail
@dannyrod – #virginblue are terrible, sent me a gold status for my velocity rewards and then withdrew it! I was so excited to fly them again but no haha
@zoomzoom83 – I don’t envy #virginblue tech support right now. Or the guy that fucked the email up.
@TheAviator1992 – @VirginBlue That was a really nasty trick…
@silverstackers – @VirginBlue – #oops? I want my Gold status!
@raejada – Friday 13th sucks! I would have been able to use that upgrade this year :-( So…what scale of a mistake is it exactly??? #virginblue
@le_sloth – damnit I thought it was too good to be true getting my #virginblue gold upgrade
@yarrcat – @VirginBlue offers me gold membership, then withdraws it. http://bit.ly/3B0X9s http://bit.ly/4DIubi  Not the only one. Friday night #fail
@jamesmcc – @DamianEdwards @jodiem I got the same email from @VirginBlue I was quite excited and said wow thats great customer service, guess not
@yarrcat – @Tuna Dang, seems like a lot of people got the @virginblue rug pulled out from under them. Sigh.
@johnsee – Dear @virginblue. Thanks for getting my hopes up for nothing…
@sportsthought – @VirginBlue wtf? Tell us we have upgrades then send lame email apology! – that’s poor customer service
@shimmmergirl – I doubt @VirginBlue email was a mistake…was it just a way to promote the ‘gold status? If so, acute social media mistake!
@RugbyRiddler – Getting rolled by both Qantas and VirginBlue on the same day – marvellous!
@shimmmergirl – think @VirginBlue may have class action on its hands sending out ‘gold status’ upgrade emails, then calling it Fri 13 mistake. Dodgy!
@lukasmarshall – Seriously uncool @VirginBlue. Seriously uncool. How many people got the email? Would it really be that much of a stretch to honor it?
@CarFullOfBogans – @VirginBlue you pieces of shit. You sent this out pricks
@I_enigma – RT @jodiem: So it looks like Virgin Blue may have breached the spam act also by sending to people who opted out already. #virginblue
@reebostyler – @VirginBlue worst mistake ever! I was about to purchase confirmed seats due to the (not so) awesome email!
@stormgc – @VirginBlue Come on guys I want my free Gold upgrade!
@nic_leah – seems like @virginblue had a huge email stuff up today. disappointed gold for a year sounded awesome
just got the retraction email from @VirginBlue… no longer Gold… that was short…think I’ll stick with Qantas…
Hey #virginblue – you can’t take away the gold upgrade you just gave me! Not fair!
@Dannyrod mate, I’m starting a #virginblue boycott. From now on it’s #tigerairways for me!!!
Most of these tweets appear to get progressively worse for the brand and the PR for the company, so what is the companies initial response?
virginblue
VirginBlue Response
So its often important to see how quickly a company responds, with Virgin they managed to send out a followup email 3 hours after the initial mistake.  While this is a short term solution based on the tweets many of their Velocity members do not feel it is satisfactory for such a failure.
The initial members that flooded the website causing it to crash and also the customer service phone calls did not see this update unless they visited the website some time after they received the initial email.

velocity-gold-email-fail

The delay in sending out a followup email of up to 3 hours does not show a full understanding of the greater issue and the importance of a quick response.  It would have not been a massive issue for VirginBlue to offer to honor the deal or at least offer a discount off a future VirginBlue flights.
twitter
The official tweet from the VirginBlue account did not seem to go beyond a general generic response.  Using social media platforms such as twitter allow one-to-one communication but they failed to do this….
Friday the 13th strikes! Some members have been advised of an upgrade that they are ineligible for. We regret any inconvenience caused.
Failure learnings?
So what can be learned from this situation, first point is that if you stuff up, monitor the social media traffic to see what the key issue is and what are the angry/outspoken members looking for as a possible resolution.  In this case there appeared to be a consistent feeling that honoring the deal would have resolved the situation and been a great PR exercise for the Velocity program.
Did the initial offer match the velocity program? Yes, to make the issue more of a sore spot, read the footer below included on the email sent to members. So it is a fair point that people could have believed that the email was realistic, believable and likely to be true….
velocity-program-rewards-you-faster

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13 comments

  1. Jo Grey says:

    What a public relations disaster! How much skin off Virgin’s nose to honour their agreement and have many happy Velocity members instead of very, very disgruntled ones like myself. How about quickly reversing their second decision and making good their offer. Surely The Lounge in every city won’t be flooded!

    • Jo,

      agree that its not going to be a good week for Virgin and it would not be a massive issue for them to honour the deal as you pointed out you are one of the many disgruntled Velocity members. But it’s too early to say if they can dig a deeper whole with a followup email explaining why they don’t have to honour the original email…

      Would it be such a bad thing if more people were able to use The Lounge?

  2. Craig Welvch says:

    What a bunch of crybabies!

    They made a mistake. They retracted and apologised. Yet the ‘entitlement generation’ is still claiming something they didn’t earn.

    Class action? What a joke. Class actions are for serious issues, such as tobacco. Not for placating babies.

    And because of a wrong email, one poster above will fly Tiger instead of Virgin? Now that really is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    Get over it people. Move on.

    • Craig,

      Thanks for the comment and yes as you pointed out some people really took this to heart, but we know that not all decisions made in the heat of the moment are rational. But I will be surprised if none of their competitors at least try and get some mileage out of their unfortunate situation.

  3. […] about our agency « VirginBlue fails Email Marketing with Velocity Gold Upgrade […]

  4. Not happy one bit. I updated my details and then saw the follow up email.

  5. Upset says:

    Virgin Blue sucks. The little bit more you pay to fly Qantas is well worth avoiding Virgin Blue’s deceptive and skin-deep customer service. Plus, you get in-flight meals included!

  6. […] Virgin Blue fails marketing – Lost Press […]

  7. s says:

    i think it would be a bit ridiculous to “honour everyone who got the email with gold membership” considering there were probably millions of people who got it? how comfortable would a lounge be packed with whinging bogans ?

  8. The head of Virgin Blue’s loyalty program has revealed there were tears in their office after staff realised they had mistakenly sent a upgrade offer to more than 1 million members.

    The error, which would have cost the airline a fortune to honour, resulted in more than 1 million Velocity members offered free lounge memberships and upgrades to “gold” status. The offer was withdrawn in a follow-up email two hours later.

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/travel/travel-news/tears-in-the-office-over-virgin-blue-email-mistake-20091116-ignq.html

  9. Hi guys,
    Join me on my fight against Virgin Blue for a little Customer Service! Rants, Insider Tips and Horror Stories all welcome!

    http://oneangrycookie.wordpress.com/

    • K,

      Thanks for the comment and hopefully you will get some action out of VirginBlue. If you had some pictures and maybe including a map in the article to show readers the distance between Brisbane Airport and Coolongatta Aiport also might help explain why it is a bit of an inconvenience…