Last week, I wrote about how social media isn’t hard, companies make it hard. The idea being that a lot of opportunities fall into the lap of companies every day in regards to their digital strategies, and often these opportunities aren’t capitalized on.
For example, right now there’s a mad rush by brands to get on the Influencer Marketing train. Brands want to know how they can work with influencers, and how they can get those influencers talking positively online about their brand. Big brands are paying millions of dollars to consultants and agencies to help launch Influencer Marketing campaigns.
And yet, they often miss capitalizing on free opportunities to interact with influencers that fall into their laps.
I was thinking about this as I read about my friend Ann Handley’s recent traveling nightmare with Delta airlines. The story was a breakdown in customer service that’s unfortunately all too familiar to those of us that fly frequently. But I wanted to pick this story up when Ann, after getting no help (or empathy!) from Delta reps at the ATL airport, decided to turn to Twitter and the @Delta account.
At this point, I want to back up for a minute. When a customer has a problem with a brand, they will typically try to contact the brand via offline or online channels BEFORE going to social media. I’ve been educating clients on this for 10 years, I’ve been blogging about it here for years, hell I even wrote a book about this. So when a company encounters what they might perceive as a ‘complaint’ from a customer on social media, they need to understand how the customer got there. Typically, as Ann did, they tried to contact the brand via other customer support channels, and did not get the help they needed. So they turned to social media, and at this point, they just want someone to LISTEN to them and show EMPATHY for their situation. In short they want the brand to say “I’m sorry you’re upset, help me understand what has happened so I can see what can be done to help you”. The point is, you have a customer that’s typically frustrated, who is upset with the treatment they have gotten from your brand, but if you show empathy for their situation and work with them to resolve it to the customer’s satisfaction, you have a chance to convert a ranter, into a raver. Nothing creates an advocate faster than a brand that listens to the customer that has a problem, and who goes the extra mile to solve that problem.
Now that we’ve covered that ground, let’s turn our attention back to Ann’s situation with Delta. I’m not going to really comment on what happened with Ann at the ATL airport (because you should read the post) but suffice it to say that Delta’s customer service efforts in person at the airport were less than satisfactory as far as Ann is concerned. So she’s upset, and a bit frustrated by the time she decides to try the hail mary of contacting Delta on Twitter for help.
And the second she did, whether Delta realized it or not, but they were engaging in Influencer Marketing. A quick click of Ann’s Twitter account tells you the following:
- She has nearly 400k followers
- She’s a bestselling author
In other words, she’s an influencer. And I’m not sure what the social media equivalent of a Q Score is, but Ann’s would be off the charts. Everyone loves Ann.
.@Delta @DeltaAssist Still waiting for some assistance. It’s been an hour since my original tweet. pic.twitter.com/8dT25LIVFA
— Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs) May 4, 2017
So Delta had a rare opportunity to interact directly with an influencer fall in its lap. According to Ann, here’s what happened: She tweeted to @Delta saying she needed help. Approximately an hour later (see the problem?), she got a reply, and an exchange began. Ann was offered a voucher or free miles, but really wanted someone from Delta to explain to her exactly what had happened and how her situation was allowed to reach this point. Delta told her on Twitter that they were dispatching a customer service rep to her location in the airport to talk to her.
Eighty-five mins later (see the problem?), she was still waiting for the CS rep to reach her when her name was called for standby for another flight and she left the airport. Still frustrated and upset, she squeezed into the back of her flight, and started writing what would become her blog post.
Again, brands like Delta will spend millions if not hundreds of millions on Influencer Marketing in 2017. Yet when they have a chance to connect with an actual influencer for free, they blow it.
And the great irony of this story? Ann is a professional speaker, and as a fellow speaker, I can tell you that one thing we love is new case studies to share with our audiences. So there’s at least one positive Ann can take from this last week.
The moral of the story is that there’s no sense in your brand chasing the Shiny Object of the day if you can’t nail basic customer service. Empower and train your employees to have understanding and empathy for your customers and 95% of your customer service issues will magically disappear.
And for extra credit: Understand that every customer is an Influencer to someone. Your brand is engaging in Influencer Marketing every day, whether you realize it or not.