Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Power of Twitter for Customer Service

Twitter, smartphones, connectivity, flight delays, and Customer Service via Social Media.

Back in June, Sabine McElrath wrote about our rediscovery of each other via Twitter—after 35 years—in a post she titled "The Incredible Power of Twitter." This week, I used one of Twitter's other amazing powers to save a trip from becoming wasteful in time and money, and to gain peace of mind. (Yes, really.)

I was ready to fly home after a few days of business. In the airport, the info boards told me my flight would be delayed for about an hour. I connected to the airport's free wireless network and downloaded the Delta Airlines iPhone app, Fly Delta. I checked my connecting flight in New York, and it was scheduled to get off the ground about three minutes after my delayed flight landed. I checked repeatedly as I waited in the airport, and my outbound flight was drifting a few minutes later each time. Not good. It was evident that I would be stuck in New York after my arrival. I used an app called Direct Line to call Delta without  going through their phone tree manually. I spoke with a friendly representative who confirmed that yes, I was going to miss my connecting flight, and was puzzled when I laughed at the thought that she could find another flight later in the evening to my destination—Bangor, Maine. She found me a flight to Bangor from New York, leaving late the next morning. So, I would be hoteling it in NYC, or spending many hours in the airport. Downhearted, I switched the flight. I would not make it home Thursday night. We got off the ground about one and a quarter hours past our originally scheduled time, headed for my New York connection.

Thanks to my gogoinflight Internet connection, I was able to communicate with home and elsewhere via email from the plane in flight, and I checked into the Delta app to keep updated on the flights. Late in my flight, I decided to take one more look at my original flight, after an email from home suggesting that it, too, might be delayed. Sure enough, it was running about one hour late. So, my mission was to get back on that flight as rapidly as possible. Using the Birdbrain app, I found Delta's Twitter account and sent them a tweet asking how I could switch:
A few minutes later, I received a tweet from @DeltaAssist asking for my confirmation number and my desired change via Direct Message, which I sent (number removed):
And then, after about 5 minutes, I got the good news:
I deplaned in NYC, walked up to the gate for my departing flight, got my seat assignment, and was on my way home.

Now, let's not forget that the best Customer Service would have been to get me off the ground on time in the first place, and have neither flight delayed. But, Delta did a great job of responding quickly to my request and getting it done. Thanks JD, whoever you are, for understanding the urgency, for being empowered with the right tools to make the change happen, and for getting me home. I had peace of mind because I didn't have to run around talking to gate agents to make the switch in NYC, and a good, productive day the next day, instead of losing time, effort and money for extra travel.

Does your company have a good Social media strategy for Customer Service?

Give it some thought.

Note: I have no affiliation whatsoever with Delta, gogoinflight, Birdbrain, or Direct Line. They just happen to be the tools I used to accomplish these tasks.