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Why CIOs like Big Data and Social Media more than Customer Excellence.

by Michael Maoz  |  May 31, 2012  |  5 Comments

Seriously: Social media monitoring? Big Data analytics?  Wozu hast du mir den Kopf verdreht? (ooooph – says grandma Anna) – Just get the basics right and you would not need to go nuts with any of this stuff. Here is a funny, though not funny, example of working on the wrong stuff – that cost me US$300 to tell: I accrued enough reward points with my (Elite!!) credit card carrier to take four family and friends on vacation this August. No blackout dates! Whoopee! That is more than great. I found the tickets, booked the flights via my Card company’s website, and received email confirmation. All was right with the world.

But then. Email update number one from the airline arrives. But the message is from a third party on behalf of the airline, and it is not the airline operating the plane, but another airline DBA (“doing business as” for non-english natives) the airline, and the equipment for the DBA comes from another airline entirely. Do you see any potential for trouble here?

Email update #1. Slight change in itinerary/time.

two weeks later:
Email update #2. Ominous. Slight change in itinerary/time. Just 12 minutes different time or departure in NY.
Email update #3. Slight change in itinerary/time. This arrived three weeks after update #2.
Email update #4. Slight change in itinerary/time. Two weeks later, another ‘cosmetic’ change.
Email update #5. Slight change in itinerary/time. More changes. Vacation party feeling fragile. Maybe I stop telling them about the updates.

 Some ‘Reward.’ Did I receive a word of ‘sorry’ from my Credit Card company? No. But one of my guests, anxious about the changes every couple of weeks, got cold feet and cancelled. I called the Membership program contact center.  I was on their chatty, spinning, flashing website, but could not find a way to cancel just one ticket of four. I call in….

Did they know my flight number in the customer service center? No. Airline? No. Any record of flight? Only that I had used Reward Points. I explain the cancellation request, and the five ‘update notices’ that have driven us to distraction. “I am so sorry,’ says the polite but ineffective agent, ‘Your guest can use the ticket for up to one year, for only a $180 change fee.”

Only a $180 change fee on the $300 ticket, from the airline that drove us mad? Will the airline consider waiving the change fee? I ask this with great deference. But this is: “Agent with no power, but very polite”, and she says “Let me put you on hold and I will speak with them.”

(Hey, I’m thinking – with your vaunted social media babble floating on your website with Tweets and Facebook posts – sanitized, of course – why can’t I just listen to you speak with the airline? Sure I can: when shrimp learn to whistle.)

Answer back from airline, from behind the Wizard of Oz curtain: “Tell your client to pound tar. If the final change were more than 90 minutes, then we would allow it.” (I paraphrase with the ‘pound tar.’). Did they consider the inconvenience of five changes, which in aggragate were more than 90 minutes? Do any of you doubt the answer?

Easy come, easy go. No one takes responsibility, no one is at fault. Human agents are chained to ridged policies. All fine. But do you know what? If a consumer chose to go viral and unleash the Consumer Fascism of Twitter and Facebook and posts on websites and YouTube, then attention would be paid and action taken. Why? Because it is the altar of social media monitoring, and there we can offer gifts to the Social Deity.

Postscript: how does Big Data detect this issue? It cannot. Everyone did their job. Everyone was polite. All policies were adhered to. No consideration was given to context. The customer did not act as a raving lunatic on social media. They just walked away. In this case not even the airline was mentioned. It doesn’t matter. It is the Somonyng of Everyman.

An empowered agent would have access to my travel history that would show I am both a corporate customer and a private customer. It would reveal that this was my rare use of a Rewards point. That I spend a substantial amount of money with them each year, and have for 15 years. That there were five changes to flight times. That I don’t badger or harass with social media messages. And my reward? Bubkes. Bubkes is also hard to detect on Social Media or with Big Data.

The CIO does not want to work towards good customer service. It is boring. It is not a career path. It is not chichi nor does it win a bigger budget. Only the corporation, shareholders and the customer win. So let’s focus on BIG DATA! The Internet of Things (the clapping grows louder!). Cloud applications! Mobile!! (they’re on their feet now!).

Ah, about that customer! (And IT nods off for good.)

Category: analytics-for-social-crm  cio  cloud  contact-center  crm  innovation-and-customer-experience  leadership  social-crm  social-networking  strategic-planning  twitter  

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Why CIOs like Big Data and Social Media more than Customer Excellence.

  1. Michael,

    Whether the big G social monitoring machine or your own covert Google alert has ever picked me on the radar I have no idea. Suffice to say I regularly RT your posts.

    The last two have had me in stiches! This one is expecially priceless in its dark humour. You are just nailing it. If there was a BAFDA for coporate humourist……


  2. My mom had her flight changed 7 or 8 for an overseas trip. She doesn’t use social media (and I’m not a fan of using social media for brand bashing) but your experience would be captured in ‘Big Data’. The emails, your phone call – an event does not have to occur on a social media platform per se to be analyzed and used to inform customer service strategies and update their ‘rigid’ guidelines. No, analyzing enterprise text may not be as glamorous but it can yield just as many social insights as Twitter.

    Thanks for sharing.


  3. Rocio Ramos says:

    Very well said! I cannot agree more that customer service has fallen down the rabbit hole. Really the only way to get anyone to pay attention is through a Youtube video, as sad as that may be. Good luck with the travels.

  4. KK says:

    Every single time I sit on a United flight and the introductory video shows cheerful, annoying CEO talking about how they upgrading their fleet with lie flat beds and the best possible performing equipment I want to lose my noodle.

    How about agent training? How about improving processes and CRM systems so that customers feel like humans?

    Why can’t they understand that the equipment is table stakes, it is a “hygiene” factor. (It’s like positioning on ‘our airline is safe!’).

    This is why my favorite quote in the airline business comes (mythically or not, I can’t say for sure…) when Southwest airlines leadership said: “We aren’t in the airline industry. We are in the service business and we happen to fly airplanes.” Amen.

  5. JP says:

    So… CIO’s care more about the technology than the people? go figure.

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