Once upon a time, not so long ago, your boss going on vacation meant a week’s worth of peace and quiet around the office.
Nowadays, there is nowhere to hide. Whether on a beach in Hawaii, in the air on a cross-country flight or stuck in a conference room back at the office, digital technology and social media now connect us all in real-time. And if we’re constantly connected and engaging with each other, the expectation is that brands, both big and small, are “on call” whenever and wherever we need them.
No one understands this better than our very own Sarah Hofstetter, who runs the Brand Strategy and Emerging Media team here at 360i (@Pezmeister1 on Twitter). Sarah planned every detail of her family’s trip to Hawaii, her first vacation in who knows how long? But when weather issues resulted in the late departure of the first leg through Dallas and put her entire trip in jeopardy, Sarah turned to the only friend she had left: Twitter.
More specifically, me on Twitter. Within 30 seconds of reaching 10,000 feet, Sarah fired up her laptop and wifi connection, checked the AA.com flight status tracker on AA.com and learned that her connecting flight to Hawaii was scheduled to take off just 15 minutes after her first flight landed in Dallas.
Knowing that at that very moment I was sitting within earshot of 30+ co-workers with their TweetDeck windows open and in their upright position, Sarah sent me an IM and asked me to tweet at American Airlines asking them to hold the second plane until her family could get there. So that’s what I did. My initial tweet was then retweeted by dozens of others.
Within minutes, tweets mentioning Sarah’s situation and @AmericanAir were rolling past my eyes like a poorly secured beverage cart during take-off. The only question was whether or not @AmericanAir would reply. And not only did they reply specifically to Sarah’s specific issue on Twitter, they kept responding until she was on the ground in Dallas.
At present, there are only a handful of companies that are actively leveraging social media to provide meaningful customer service. The person (or team) running the American Airlines feed is likely powerless to stall an airplane or in any way alter the course of the flight timetable. Whether or not the Hofstetters made that connecting flight to HNL is not the point here. In total, @AmericanAir tweeted at Sarah five times, demonstrating that they were not only listening, but really cared about her as a customer. They also were able to provide up-to-the-minute updates about her connecting flight (that it was also running late) and did so with some personality.
Now we’re not sure if American’s Twitter manager knows that Sarah has a small army of influential tweeters at her disposal (our deluge of tweets were hard to miss), but our team of Community Managers were all extremely impressed by the way American Airlines handled the situation. Time is money in the airline business. And while American Airlines cannot always control air traffic, their swift responsiveness and deft management of social traffic is right on time.
Fortunately, Sarah and her family made that flight (with minutes to spare), meaning that American got it right in more ways than one. In the age of social media, good customer service often results in pleasing more than just your one paying customer. Word travels fast and a happy, relaxed Sarah means a quiet office.
Until, of course, she reaches for the Blackberry when the rental car or hotel room’s air conditioner breaks down…