Socially engaged / by Mark Izatt

More and more consumers choose to broadcast their anguish (less so their delight)  during an unfolding breakdown in customer satisfaction on social media.  Before we would stamp our feet and then, if particularly motivated, send a complaint letter or email. Thanks to Twitter (largely) we can now make our feelings known and, depending on the speed of reaction of the entity we are talking at, potentially alter the situation to our benefit. 

This explains why more and more organizations (especially those which have a large volume of dynamic issues to deal with - I've used Twitter myself to bypass British Telecom's customer service) invest a lot of resource into 24/7 Twitter monitoring and reacting.

But technology is only one side of the equation - it has to empower someone who is close enough to the situation / the customer to effect change.   To make things better.

This week I had the opportunity to see some best practice in action.    This is what unfolded;

 - plane has a mechanical issue which means it has to return to the gate 

- flight crew advise passengers that there will be a delay  

- passenger sends a frustrated tweet to the airline

- airline responds with a standard apology and hope that things are sorted quikcly


However in this case one of the onboard crew was monitoring social media, alerted the Captain and he then stepped out of the cockpit to address the passengers on a more personal and direct basis. 

A couple of points here: 

1.  The first priority of the Captain is to attend to all of his or her duties on the flight deck but beyond that they have a very effective ability to inform and reassure.

2.  It's never enough just to say "sorry" when the issue is still live.  People want more information from a trustworthy source.

3.  Employees closest to the customer have the ability to have the greatest positive effect. 

4.  Large organizations need a communication process which is augmented by the intervention of empowered and trusted managers.  

Ultimately all of this underlines the importance of anyone being on the "frontline" of customer experience to understand their role in turning a potential negative into a sure fired positive.

PS.   The passengers made it to their destination, a little delayed but appreciative of the crew.