Awhile back, as I was merrily making my way to a client workshop on social business strategy, I experienced a “travel disruption.” The specifics of the location and provider are not important, but there is a lesson for all organizations in what happened – or more exactly, what didn’t.
This was a rather classic travel disruption where “something bad” happened that forced us off schedule but little information was provided to me or my fellow travelers. Apparently the company wasn’t keeping its employees updated either. The representatives on the scene were quite pleasant and understanding. However, they didn’t know what was being done to get us going again. Lesson: when one is trapped during an equipment malfunction, cluelessness trumps nice.
Being the impatient person that I am, I checked in with the company’s customer support center. Again, “so sorry for the delay but we have no idea of when it will be fixed” was the answer. So I’m thinking to myself that maybe there’s some better status info on Twitter. So I ask the customer service rep if they have a Twitter account.
Agent: Yes, we do.
Carol: Can you give me the Twitter account name so I can check there?
Agent: I don’t know what is is.
Well, okay then.
So eventually if found the account and tweeted my request to get some info on what was happening and when we might be on our way again. To their credit, I received a response within the hour. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any useful information in it. Lesson: being responsive on social media is good, but being responsive with answers is much better.
There was a healthy social media conversation going on, however, even if the company was not very active in it. Other people impacted by the disruption were looking for answers and it was fellow travelers who were supplying them in the absence of any specific info from the company itself. Eventually, the company posted a tweet that acknowledged the problem and directed people to their website to get more information.
Now remember, we were en route when the problem occurred – not at our desks with access to a big screen. So clicking on a live link in a tweet and trying to read a status update on a smartphone was a less than satisfactory experience. In effect, it kept us in the dark about the company’s plans and any progress being made on our behalf. Lesson: be mindful of how your customers will consume the information you provide. Some formats will be useful, others less so.
So what is the real issue I’m citing in this example? Obviously, the first thing we wanted was to be on our way. Priority #1 has to be fixing the disruption. But considering that the people who were fixing the problem were not the same people who were chartered to keep us updated on the progress of fixing it, the people at the customer service center and the people on social media should have been provided with accurate information. That way, while we were stuck, we’d have some information to lessen the frustration. Additionally, there should have been better coordination between the customer service center and the social media team.
Going forward, all organizations will need to figure out how to use social media as a part of their customer service strategy. It has the advantage of being an easy way to simultaneously update lots of people. It can serve as a more effective means of customer communication than handling lots of individual calls to the support center. KLM learned this lesson during the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010.
One interesting postscript to this story. After we going going again, I DMed the company offering a consultation on integrating social media with customer support – after all, I was on my way to conduct a social business strategy workshop when this all happened.
Still waiting to hear back . . .