We are all getting comfortable with the place that social media outlets can have in the business process. Public relations, human resources, legal and sales can all benefit. At the present the most common application is customer service. While customer service is always important, the advent of social media has created customer service in ways that most companies never imagined.
The airline industry has had a virtual crash course in handling customer issues via social media outlets with Twitter leading the charge. One main reason for this is the fact that frequent travelers are likely to be heavy smart phone users and what else can they do while suffering thorough a delay? Complain of course. Now just going to the desk at the gate and airing your concerns is mere child’s play. Why not tell all of your friends and followers about how terrible the airline is that you are having trouble with? How airlines handle this can determine who that flyer decides to go with in the future.
It looks like the winner thus far is Southwest. I learned about their particular approach to social media at a conference in Dallas and it was impressive. An Ad Age article tells more by showing how the airline used Twitter to diffuse the situation from earlier in the week where a foot wide hole ripped in the fuselage of a Southwest flight but was safely landed enventually.
Shortly after the plane landed, the tweets began pouring in from those who heard the news: “Emergency landing for a Southwest flight … A one ft by one ft hole in the fuselage is to blame … yikes.” The incident was documented by those on board via Twitpic and YouTube. The airline’s lead “Twitterer,” Christi Day, immediately began posting updates that included links to an official company release, a statement that all planes would be inspected overnight and news that all passengers on board would be refunded.
“It was important for us to set the tone as soon as we saw those conversations begin online,” Ms. Day said. “We were able to distribute factual information to our customers before they saw it on the 10 p.m. news, which is extremely powerful.”
Nice job. Now the other side of the same coin; Delta.
On the more serious matter of customer service, the airline took a bit of a bruising yesterday on Twitter, following a letter Andy Azula, the creative director at the Martin Agency and the actor in the UPS Whiteboard commercials, wrote to Delta that he posted on his blog and linked to on his Twitter page (he has since taken it down). Apparently Delta delayed Mr. Azula’s flight, keeping him and his family waiting at the airport for 13 hours and causing him to miss a number of meetings and a family gathering. The airline didn’t offer any type of compensation in the end. Not only did the link get re-tweeted dozens of times, but people started adding their own commentary, such as “Yep. Delta Airlines is screwed if they don’t rectify this.” The airline did not tweet any type of reply.
Delta responded that they are developing their social / emerging media processes. Not exactly the sharp witted response you need when you get hammered by someone in the advertising industry who knows how to work this stuff.
So here are two pretty distinct sets of results. Our question to Pilgrim readers is where are your strategies? Do you even have any? Do you feel the need for them? Are they more industry specific than general? Tell us your stories. One of the best ways to maneuver through this new area is to share successes and failures. Maybe we can even help each other in a friendly, social media, community kind of way?