What is The Cleartrip Hurry Algorithm incident?

Here’s the first blog post, with that title. And here is Cleartrip’s response.

Now, to our PR lessons. But, before that, a small note.

Unlike the Kiruba Incident, The Cleartrip Hurry Algorithm Incident is something that impacts everybody using the site. Kiruba Incident is a one-off instance and other customers were being served adequately even at that time. This one, though, is across the website and needed more scrutiny…which is what it also got, eventually.

Lesson 1: Monitor your brand buzz consistently and constantly

The original blog post went live on January 26th, a national holiday in India. A tweet on it, by @jackerhack was posted in the noon, at 1:42pm. Cleartrip responded at 2:12pm and promised to look into it. It also thanked him for pointing that out. The response blog by Cleartrip went live the same day, on their blog, incidentally.

Lesson 2: The choice of words and expressions

This may seem insignificant, but the sequence of words/expressions is equally important – it goes, (1) apology, (2) thanks for pointing it out and (3) we’re on the job. In essence, it is assuaging the user with an apology to change his possible anti stand, disarm him even more with gratitude (completely out of turn) and obviously, promise to take action. You’d notice the same, in a lesser degree, on the blog post.

“Weâ??d like to take the opportunity to explain and to improve”

“We will also be taking a hard look at how we can improve and make the feature clearer since it seems to be confusing some users and causing a storm in a social media teacup”

Yes, there is no apology in the blog post and that does sound a bit strange.

Lesson 3: When in a mess, say something – don’t just keep quiet and make things worse

Cleartrip’s Hrush is seen commenting on the original blog post, at least initially, since the post was going all over the net. In fact, he was the first to respond to that post! Compare that with most other client reactions – the first idea is to wish it away and prepare a media response, in the assumption that if someone from mainstream media gets wind of this blog post, how should the brand respond. If media doesn’t pick it up, enjoy it with a drink! But the truth is that your customers are actively discussing and dissecting your intentions whether mainstream media cares or not!

Lesson 4: Respond meaningfully

Cleartrip responded first in the original blog and in their own blog too. The crux is simple and highly effective, though people did wonder about what Cleartrip’s intention was, quite understandably. Hrush made a great effort in explaining the price difference between each attempt in the original blog, though, he was indeed hammered in the ‘tool tip’ explanation, which, even to me, sounded a bit shady. ‘At this price’ was THE most crucial part of that information and putting that in a tool tip seems like it is intended to have people believe that there are just so many tickets left. But then, if you go through the comments in Cleartrip’s post, Hrush does talk of design considerations and also agrees to another comment that asks him an even more pertinent question – how does one see the tool tip while browsing the site on a tablet?

Regardless of the intent – it would come down to you, as an individual, believing or disbelieving Cleartrip’s intentions – the fact that they went out of their way to put forward their point of view, so fast, is perhaps indicative that they did not do it with the wrong intention. Just perhaps.

Lesson 5: Brands as media

Cleartrip did not respond to the original post via mainstream media – it did so in a media vehicle owned by them – their own blog. It’s a different thing that they are running this blog for a long time and is one of the most read blogs by any brand in India. But the point is this – they did not have to depend on mainstream media to put forward their view. So, remember this: mainstream media is not the end of PR – deal with that fact.

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This is a text book example of digital/social media PR. There is no involvement of mainstream media anywhere in this equation and the entire controversy erupted and was considered within social media, by normal people. It was addressed to, in time, by Cleartrip and they regained some of the lost sheen at least with the price difference point which has readers look at the original post in new light, since it so obviously seems to ignore this crucial point – it is as crucial as the ‘hidden in tool tip’ argument, in my opinion.

Above all, the speed in which Cleartrip managed things and was in control of the situation was really admirable. We have seen brands like Fedex respond with a video for their monitor dumping controversy, but here’s an Indian brand doing the same, quite confidently!

Comments

comments

6 thoughts on “PR lessons from The Cleartrip Hurry Algorithm incident

  1. You have a great sense of writing I must say. Your post has those facts which are not accessible from anywhere else. I request you humbly please keep writing such 

    remarkable articles.

  2. Thank you for providing the insights from this incident – the PR lessons that we all forget to distill from such net-happenings.

    Disagree with you on point 4 though – the response just has to sound confidently meaningful like it did in this case, irrespective of how shady the reasoning itself is. It works for convincing most people.

    For Lesson 3, if you sort Disqus comments by “oldest first”, Hrush’s comment is 5th or 6th on the post, not the first.

    1. ‘sound confidently meaningful’ vs ‘meaningful’ – PR vs meaningful. I believe a confidently meaningful sounding response will be scrutinized enough online that if it is only confident and not meaningful in reality, it’d do more damage. In this case, they had one super point (price difference), while they could have a bit more up front on the tool tip point. As I had said, these are 2 of the strongest points for and against Cleartrip.

      On your other point – apologies. You’re right – I saw the default ‘popular comments’ sort.

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