In the past when a company goofed up with a patron, the snafu remained relatively unknown. The customer likely was disgruntled and either never turned to the company again with their business or thought hard before doing so. Very few people initiated a vicious word of mouth campaign since they have plenty of other things to do besides dissing a company.

However, the Internet enables people to spread their wrath towards a company unhindered by their social network and geographic constraints, and disgruntled customers have harnessed the web to spread their displeasure.  When this happens, it is important for companies to remember that when a customer attacks online, nothing prevents the company from participating in the discussion.  Further, such involvement could help alleviate any PR problems associated with complaints aired online. 

The Internet has changed how customer complaints can spread throughout society. 

For example, there is, which started in December 1997 and has continued posting updates of complaints towards the airline until about a year ago. The site chronicles bad news about the airline — including a dog booked on a flight that missed the Westminster Dog Show, FAA Sanctions against airlines, and rants about specific Delta employees that were named.  Anyone can see the website since the search engines index it and present it, in some cases, when people search for information about the airline.

Why did someone start this site? "Administrator" states on the site that: "I quickly decided that writing complaint letters every time I had a problem with the service provided by Delta would turn into quite a task. Instead I decided to create this Web site so that everyone could read about my experiences with Delta Air Lines" (emphasis added).

Delta is not the only airline facing such trouble. After the infamous Valentine's Day delays that left JetBlue passengers stuck in planes for hours while they were waiting to depart, Genevieve McCaw was fed up enough to start the JetBlueHostage blog and associated MySpace page to chronicle her feelings and dealings with the airline. She also invited others to share their comments and experiences with the fiasco and monitored JetBlue news via the site.

After garnering significant media attention, including coverage from CNN and Fox News, the airline gave McCaw some time with CEO David Neeleman so that he could answer questions from her and others who submitted questions via the blog. This was an excellent move on the JetBlue's part.

As Steve Rubel notes over at MicroPersuasion, "Although, the meeting left the passenger still cold, it would have been worse if they ignored her." Further, McCaw is not the only person who flies JetBlue, and even if the airline didn't win her over, perhaps this gesture has won others over who are less vengeful than McCaw.

Blogging is all about connecting and interacting with others around a common cause or interest. Both Delta and JetBlue share an interest in costumer experience with the administrator at and McCaw. JetBlue has every right to directly join the discussion that McCaw started and followed through, and the same applies for all companies.

If a blogger is throwing swords a company's way, the company should engage them directly. Perhaps the disgruntled customer will stop attacking, or at the very least other spectators will appreciate the company's outreach efforts.