Being present in customer service. That’s so important. We often talk about organizations doing it wrong, but I’d like to talk about my positive recent experiences with American Airlines.
I recently went up to New York City for the Realtime Marketing Lab which took place on a Monday. I flew up on Sunday afternoon. Now I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t as organized in getting myself out the door as I usually am when traveling. I think it had to do with the fact it was a Sunday afternoon flight and Sundays are my total goof-off day. So I basically got the airport by the skin of my teeth… even with TSA Pre-Check, I was RUNNING to the gate and was the last person on the plane. The American Airlines gate agent was super. We push off the gate on-time, but then parked on the tarmac. The pilot came on sharing that there is some sort of delay at LaGuardia Airport. He didn’t have any information.
So I took my iPhone out of Airplane Mode and tweeted @americanair. Within minutes, they responded to me. They shared the information they had. Then we had a pleasant conversation. This isn’t the first time I’ve had conversations with the @americanair handle. And at the Realtime Marketing Lab, a participant spoke up during a discussion of realtime marketing and customer service sharing that there was an issue with his flight and the team on @americanair took care of him by rebooking his flight and getting him information he needed to make this event.
On my return trip, I got to the airport earlier than I had wanted. Again thanks to TSA Pre-Check, I breezed through security. I wandered to my gate for my flight. I sat down and just before I put my ear buds on I heard a last boarding call announcement for an American Airlines flight to Raleigh. A 7pm flight is a lot better than a 9pm especially since I’ve an hour and a half drive home. So I wandered over there to ask if there is room on the flight and could I get on it. To be honest I wasn’t expecting the answer I got. I asked. And without blinking, the gate agent said yes even though the flight had boarded and took care of me like I was American Airlines’ number one customer. While I am an AA Advantages member, I have zippo status. I am a nobody yet I was treated like a VIP by this gate agent and her colleague. I was home and in bed by 11pm. Win for me.
So what does my story have to do with customer service? Everything.
What did they do right?
1. Listen. American Airlines was listening on channels where their customers are conversing. Their account isn’t a place holder account which is never used or just used to broadcast out. There is real interaction with relationship building. They aren’t afraid to engage customers. And the account is active it seems 24/7.
2. Tone. The tone of the conversations fit the channel. Social media is more informal. The team at @americanair is talking with people not at them. They aren’t using corporate-speak, which tends to be stiff and automated.
3. Empower. The social media and on the ground staff were empowered to provide the best customer experience. I’m pretty sure those gate agents overrode some “rules” on getting me on the flight. They could have said no to my request without giving any thought (I would have been OK with that and I wouldn’t have given them any attitude), but instead they did a quick assessment of the situation and deemed it doable.
Take away. Allow the people of your organization to be human. It is better for business.
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