US Airways and the Twitter Fail
If you have followed me on Twitter for any length of time, you are likely to know that I am one of those old school folks who believe that Whuffie (or social capital) is earned by being nice, notable and networked. I was fortunate enough to have learned about from the ever lovely Tara Hunt herself in Australia back in 2010 when I got to hang out with her at the Connect Now conference when she spoke about her book The Whuffie Factor.
However I try to live as a citizen in the Thank You Economy (a credit to this concept as explained by the every entertaining author and Twitter mate Gary Vaynerchuck -- read it!) and give praise to brands and businesses that are delivering awesomeness in their social marketing, I do have to call a spade a spade when someone gets social media marketing all wrong and in this instance US Airways disappointed me twice.
Here's what happened...
On the morning I was leaving SXSWi (Austin) I got online to do my checkin and reviewed US Airways baggage and seating policy. As an Australian not connected to their frequent flyer program, I needed to review my options for an entire afternoon of flying with them.
I found that I could purchase preferred access so my roll-a-board of important things like laptop, medication and necessities would fly with me. I did.
I then found out that I could purchase the ability to select my seat based on those not yet allocated for a nice price of $74 USD. Wow. Pricey but I hate window seats when there are three in a row because I frequently get up and move around to prevent DVT (a common ailment amongst those who fly alot like me.)
I also paid to check a bag.
My receipt looked like this.
No response from @USAirways, or even an acknowledgement. They are happily tweeting all kinds of niceties to other people.
My second tweet:
Still no response. My third tweet:
Crickets...dead air. Nada. Zip.
Then I tell them what I would like them to do. (Well...not exactly what I wanted to tell them to do with themselves...but what my best outcome would be although I am still waiting for an acknowledgement.)
Then the plane takes off. Only to get to the runway, accelerate, then throw on the brakes -- a rude awakening for all those like me who are dozers at take off when the air pressure changes.
We go back to the gate. Tests are done we are held on the plane for over an hour on the tarmac and back at the gate. Another person from Australia on the flight that I met at SXSW is also on the plane. He is asking about the situation and getting acknowledged. I am getting ignored. Not happy with selective social customer service from @USAIRWAYS and don't feel that this should be best practice for businesses who tout their social prowess and care for their customers. And yes, I called it a #fail. I had given then plenty of time to acknowledge me, offer me a pittance of an apology, and then offer to take it offline. They did none of those things, and to have them live tweeting the guy next to me giving them compliments on nice seats, well, that was pretty darn ridiculous.
So I ask again, informing them that I too on on that same flight as Lucio and kindof waiting for an answer.
And still got nothing. I used the onboard paid wifi hoping to receive an acknowledgement or SOMETHING. No such luck. When the plane offloaded in Phoenix, I deplaned and asked the counter agent for help. She offered no apology, tried to tell me I hadn't bought the selected seat (despite the presence of a digital receipt, then rudely remedied the situation. At one point, I had to ask her to remember the basics of customer service -- apologise on behalf of the airline and do her best to take ownership of the problem. I wasn't asking for false entitlements, just for the airline to deliver on it's part of the contract. When someone more important than me hadn't manifested at the gate, she gave me their aisle seat, but not without a snarl observed and commented on by other passengers once on the plane.
Then finally I thought of how I could use this story to help others in a meaningful way. My friend and author Scott Stratten (who Tweets as @unmarketing) write great books on case studies on social media gone wrong. As a frequent global nomad like myself, we caught up in Sydney in 2013 and talked about how travel companies and airlines have to much to gain and lose based on the way that they behave on social media channels. Scott - I couldn't agree more. I hope this post would make a great chapter for your next book.
What would you have done if you were in my shoes? (I'd love to hear it in the comments box, please!)