Millions of travellers have been stuck this holiday season. The question is what can you as a traveler and what can you as a supplier do about this kind of event.?
The lesson taken from this Christmas is surely larger than travel but also applies to any bad event – such as Skype’s system failure. You can imagine what your equivalent might be in your organization.
I can see that part of the answer is to be found in social media. Here is how the NYT ran their version of the story today:
While the airlines’ reservation lines required hours of waiting — if people could get through at all — savvy travelers were able to book new reservations, get flight information and track lost luggage. And they could complain, too.
Since Monday, nine Delta Air Linesagents with special Twitter training have been rotating shifts to help travelers wired enough to know how to “dm,” or send a direct message. Many other airlines are doing the same as a way to help travelers cut through the confusion of a storm that has grounded thousands of flights this week.
But not all travelers, of course. People who could not send a Twitter message if their life depended on it found themselves with that familiar feeling that often comes with air travel — being left out of yet another inside track to get the best information.
For those in the digital fast lane, however, the online help was a godsend.
Danielle Heming spent five hours Wednesday waiting for a flight from Fort Myers, Fla., back home to New York. Finally, it was canceled.
Facing overwhelmed JetBlue ticketing agents, busy signals on the phone and the possibility that she might not get a seat until New Year’s Day, she remembered that a friend had rebooked her flight almost immediately by sending a Twitter message to the airline.
She got out her iPhone, did a few searches and sent a few messages. Within an hour, she had a seat on another airline and a refund from JetBlue.
“It was a much, much better way to deal with this situation,” said Ms. Heming, 30, a student at New York University. “It was just the perfect example of this crazy, fast-forward techno world.”
Although airlines reported a doubling or tripling of Twitter traffic during the latest storm, the number of travelers who use Twitter is still small. Only about 8 percent of people who go online use Twitter, said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a nonprofit organization that studies the social impact of the Internet.
“This is still the domain of elite activist customers,” Mr. Rainie said.
Of course, an agent with a Twitter account cannot magically make a seat appear. More often than not, the agent’s role is to listen to people complain.
I recently posted about Trust and how important it is. Being silent is THE worst position. Even when you cannot offer a fix, offering an ear and the truth helps. Skype kept a running commentary about their problem and now that they have fixed it have shared the post mortem on their blog. Please look at the comments on the Skype Blog - a lesson for us all!
I had been critical of Air Canada until this Christmas - but even they have upped their efforts on Twitter to work with clients and to offer sympathy when they could not help.
They still do promotion as you can see but look at the other tweets – Air Canada are starting to get how this can help their Trust levels.
Now Twitter is still an elite tool for the elite. But all new things start this way. I am thinking of all those who were in the information dark looking over their shoulder at those who were in contact and can see that it will not take long for Twitter and Social media to become the normal for how we find our way around problems. Here is a brief summary of my own travel hell. Where I reach out on Twitter and my friends help me.
This illustrates for me the next phase of using social media to navigate crisis. Right now an airline or your organization can use social media to communicate from your own perspective. But what if you could harness, as I did, the collective wisdom of the network?
In my case I could not be sure of what the roads were like in the last 4 hours of a 13 hour trip. I asked my pals for their opinion and in minutes got enough “TRUSTED” advice to make the call to stop. My pals may have saved my life. So what if an airline could use its followers to help each other look at local weather – hotel rooms – alternative routes etc – even put each other up? What would it take to have a real community of customers? For if you did – they could do this.
Again this demands a new relationship with your customer. A customer is no longer a person out there but a node in here. If you can build up trust with an inner group, you can partner with this group in all sorts of ways.
- Crisis Management
- Problem Solving
Let’s play with this in later posts.