Boeing Dreamliner crisis in the era of Social Media Analytics

Boeing is under siege right now. When the flagship new aircraft, the Dreamliner, has been put on a global ground hold, you’ve got a problem. When a new product with development and manufacturing costs expected to top $32 Billion is unable to fly because of the lithium batteries used (and not the core design of the airframe), you’ve got a problem.

With all the technical problems at hand, it’s important for Boeing management to realize that they have another problem: brand damage, impaired public confidence, and potential loyalty management/customer relationship management leakage. Boeing is at risk of losing two degrees of customers: the airline fleets themselves as well as the end consumer. Fleets are re-evaluating their commitment to Boeing and considering airbus. Consumers are asking the question when they make reservation, “Am I flying on a Boeing plane? If so, can I switch to another aircraft or another carrier?”

So, while working feverishly to fix the technical issues, it’s important for Boeing to pay attention to these perception issues. One of the best ways for Boeing to quickly get a measure of consumer feedback is via social media, as much of the discussion going on about the Dreamliner is taking place on these channels.

First of all, let’s examine the initial reaction to the problems:

Buzzient Social Analytics for Boeing

The bad news started registering on the 6th of January as rumors began to leak out of battery problems. On Monday the 7th of January, things took a significant negative turn with the battery fire at Boston Logan Airport of the JAL flights.

In successive days one can observe bit of a recovery as expectations were that these problems were a one-off. With the realization that these problems were occurring in multiple aircraft, social sentiment takes a precipitous drop Jan 12th.

The tone of the sentiment is not the only characteristic worth noticing, but also the volume. One of the reasons why companies are not prepared to deal effectively with social media with manual intervention is that when there are social media crises, as sentiment drops, volume of posts/conversations increases. So, proof positive of the old adage that bad news spreads like wildfire. In the following volume chart from Buzzient Enterprise, this increase in volume, and specifically negative volume is apparent:
Buzzient Volume and Sentiment Analysis of Boeing

A deeper look demonstrates the granularity of Buzzient’s analytics platform as one can see the specific sentiment drop associated with the Dreamliner model vs. Boeing overall. This is an important capability for companies suffering from social media crises, the ability to hone in not only on brand impact, but specific product line impact. The former affects overall brand equity, but the latter can be immediately seen in sales:

Buzzient analysis of Dreamliner Social Media Sentiment

In addition to analysis by product line, it’s also valuable to analyze social media impact by channel or by source. Why? It’s very common for a company experimenting with social media to focus on only one channel. Some organizations put their resources behind Facebook, as this is the most visual analog for a web page. Others staff the monitoring and analysis of Twitter, replicating the contact center/help desk paradigm.  What’s not often recognized is that the social media impact on a company, especially in case of crisis, is not always equal across channel. For example:

Buzzient Social Media sentiment by source for Boeing

Here one can see varying differences in sentiment based on the source. Surprisingly, the most negative source for Boeing is neither Facebook nor Twitter but RSS, i.e. blogs. As a result of the complexity of the product and the topic, it’s highly likely that the most critical analyses and feedback on Boeing’s Dreamliner debacle are taking place on aeronautical, financial, travel, and other aerospace focused blogs.  This granularity of source analysis is extremely important for Boeing to understand, so that any efforts to counteract the negative impact can be focused on the most negative channel.

It’s unfortunate that Boeing has had to suffer these problems for such a revolutionary new platform.  However, it’s possible for other innovations to aid the company in their recovery. Social media analytics, especially when provided with product and channel-level granularity is one of those innovations. We’ll keep track at Buzzient of Boeing’s progress, and hopefully we’ll see a quick resolution to this crisis.