Yesterday morning at 6:20am American Airlines left a message that my flight was cancelled. They had rescheduled our flight, but I had several questions so I called the number they left on the message. I was on hold for 35 minutes when I tweeted this:
Within 3 minutes I got this in reply:
I told them I just wanted to talk to a human to get some answers to some questions, but couldn’t get anyone on the phone. They did something I suggested at Pubcon in March, which was to move the conversation to DMs. This is a smart move for obvious reasons and it shows me the social folks at American Airlines have got it together.
The Conversation People Couldn’t See
With some companies I have been moved to DMed conversations to basically be told there is nothing they can do for me. This was not at all the case with American Airlines.
My main concern for this trip was that my family would be able to sit together. I know that when airlines have to fit people into another flight sometimes seats can be an issue. I personally HATE flying so having my husband close is a good thing for me. My 10 year old son was with us also and my mother. Here was their response:
Okay, so this was awesome because you have so much more leg-room and the flight is more comfortable. I was happy, I thought American Airlines was super cool and we communicated a bit more via DM.
I had not hung up the phone yet; it was still sitting there on speaker. Really, I just wanted to see how long it took them to pick up so I could compare it to the Twitter response time.
- Twitter – 3 minutes
- Phone – 56 minutes
But, Then it Hit Me…
I had gotten my mother’s tickets at a different time and her locator # was different so she wouldn’t have automatically been moved near us. When the phone operator picked up I asked her about it and she said there was nothing she could do, my mom was in 25E and if we wanted something different we could ask at the airport when we got there.
So, I decided to take a shot and ask the great folks on Twitter if they could help. Here was the conversation
In my mind they had already done something nice for me, why take that extra step to do more? I don’t know why this person cared, but I really appreciate it. We were able to help my mom carry things and get seated, thanks again American Airlines.
So, Why Two Different Responses?
I have been asking myself why the phone operator had a different response from the Twitter customer service folks. Why could one help and the other couldn’t? Was it personal choice? Do the Twitter folks have move control over this type of thing? I don’t know, but I have a theory.
I work as an associate on the Community Team at Moz and also here at AuthorityLabs. I don’t know what kind of customer service person I would be on the phone, but I can tell you that on social I always want to help and I want to help as quickly as possible. I want to make the day easier for people that reach out. More importantly, I understand their frustrations. Actually, everyone I personally know that works on social is the same way.
Is this because customer service has changed or is it because with social media we have a different kind of people dealing with customers? I think it is the latter. I think some people that work with customers on social often have significant experience with social media and know what people expect. And, I think they know how to understand needs and please people.
Traditional Customer Service Can Learn From Social Customer Service
My article today could have gone in a completely different direction. If there had been no help from Twitter and a long phone call with no help I could have written about what a horrible situation I had with an airline, but because of great customer service on Twitter I want to write and praise this large brand. This is what brands want, brand evangelists, right?
Same Standards For All
There have been plenty of articles out there about what kind of people to hire to run social media accounts. I think this is a good thing, because it takes a certain kind of personality and a particular set of morals to be good at helping people via social. What I think brands need to do is start applying these same requirements to people that handle customer service issues via phone and email. Additionally, I think brands need to be concerned with timely help.
Let me be very clear, the lady that answered the phone at American Airlines was friendly, kind, funny and helpful. I liked her, but I had to wait 56 minutes to talk to her (the wait wasn’t her fault). However I do wonder if she could have found a way to move my mom closer to us.
Brands, You Must Evolve and Care
If you have a brand you need to be focused on good customer service via social, at the very least – strive for outstanding. I don’t know if American Airlines is like this for everyone or if I just got lucky, but really it doesn’t matter. They just created an evangelist.
If you want your brand to have a large group of fans you have to turn into someone that cares about the needs of others. You have to understand the frustrations of others and you have to want to help the person you are dealing with. Anything less can and will hurt you.