Consider how the movement of a meme across the social media landscape spreads what looks good on the surface, but is fetid logic underneath. A few months back I spoke at Social Media Breakfast, Seattle about Social Media, Lean and the CIA. A big part of that talk covered the danger of companies assuming that merely listening to people through Twitter was a standard of success.
Now let me tell you a little story about a recent experience I had with Delta Airlines, and how it relates to Chris Brogan's quote regarding assumptions on the Internet.
I was flying back to Seattle from Viet Nam. I had a ticket, but no seat assignment on the leg from Tokyo to Seattle. I was told that this wasn’t a problem, I could get one when I checked in at the desk in Tokyo.
My layover in Tokyo was nearly 10 hours long, before my 10 hour flight back to the States.
No problem, I thought. I would quickly check in, and then enjoy the day exploring the city.
I wend my way through the intricacies of Narita Airport, finally finding the transfer desk. It was unmanned. It was about 7 am at this point, so I went to the information counter and asked when the Delta people came to work.
They told me 11:30.
Well, that’s pretty inconvenient. But I got myself some breakfast and proceeded to wait. 11:30 came and went, and yet there was still no one at the Delta transfer desk. A little after noon the desk finally opened. It took 15 minutes for them to process my request, after which they informed me I would get my boarding pass and seat assignment 15 minutes before departure.
I inquired why, and was told my ticket was so cheap I didn’t get a seat assignment. I said that this was leg four of a ticket that went from Paris to Beijing to Hanoi to Tokyo to Seattle and all the other legs had seat assignments. At that point I was told tersely that I simply didn’t have a seat assignment.
“Okay, how do I avoid having this happen in the future?” I asked.
I got my papers pushed back at me and never did receive an answer. I have no idea how to make sure this doesn’t happen next time.
So, I’m stuck in Narita for 10 hours now because I need to make sure that the moment they open the gate, I’m first in line for a seat assignment. I do what any red blooded netizen would do. I tweet that I’m annoyed with Delta.
The next day, Delta’s big ears hear my pain and tweet to me:
So they heard me.
And so I DMed them. Now…look up.
My story wasn’t short. But I had to mash it into several 140 character statements because Delta didn’t actually give me a higher bandwidth way to have the conversation.
I told them the fastest possible version of that story. Without any further communication, Delta gave me 2,500 frequent flier points. I don’t even fly Delta! This was pretty much the equivalent of Charlie Brown winning 5 free haircuts. “My dad’s a barber and besides, I don’t have that much hair to cut!” he lamented.
Delta’s ears might have been big, but their execution sucked. No, their listening is not what I will remember them for, but rather, it is their consolation prize I will forever associate them with. I still have no idea how to not get stuck somewhere waiting for a seat assignment. That was all I really wanted: simple information.
What should Delta have done? Let me now share a story from an earlier part of that trip.
Due to a communication snafu, Orbitz messed up part of my flight. At one point, I was in real danger of being stuck in Paris with no way to fly onto to Hanoi or, to return home.
I tweeted my frustration and Orbitz responded within minutes.
They immediately gave me a direct email address and a phone number to Kristi, a real person, who could help (and who could take the time to get the whole story). Orbitz then fixed the problem I had and one other I didn’t know I had. Then they told me how I could avoid having that ever happen to me again.
Orbitz had big ears, but more importantly, they also had helping hands.
Delta’s system is built on productivity. They feel they did a good job by moving me through their process and giving me something. Orbitz is build on effectiveness. (I cover the difference in this post). They found the real problem, solved it, and made sure I was taken care of. Rest assured, both experiences will have a lasting impact.
(Oh, and Kristi later wrote to say she was glad I made it safely to Hanoi, and to thank me for the tweet.)