I just got back from a trip to the South of France, and very lovely it was too, after the first 24 hours.
The trip there, though, was pretty much as bad as it gets. Thanks to my friends at Easyjet, with a little help from some bad weather, what should have been a quick 80-minute flight was turned into an almost 12 hour odyssey of discomfort and frustration. At the end of which I helped a number of elderly people unload their cases from a coach, get to their hire cars and find beds for the night, while thinking about how very distressed my own parents would have been in that situation.
But by way of compensation (and it looks very much as though this is all we’ll get!), in the couple of days that followed, EasyJet very kindly helped me to write a masterclass on how not to use social media for customer service. I don’t know why any of the below still shocks me, but it does. In 2014 and with all the technology available to a big company, there is just no excuse.
Don’t travel if you’re not fit enough to withstand a 12 hour journey and sleep on a pavement at the end of it
So the trip started with just the routine nonsense – first a 20-minute delay, then 40 minutes, then we’re all rushed to the gate but end up sitting on the runway for another half an hour due to missed takeoff slot. Ridiculous excuse of “sorry folks we’re having a busy day here” (er, what? Did some unexpected flights appear on your schedule, or…?!) is par for the course. Eventually we get under way, but just as we head in to land, the pilot aborts at the last moment due to heavy cloud covering the runway at 200ft. Fair enough, it’s a safety issue – albeit one that is short lived in the south of France in summer, and certainly wouldn’t have been an issue at 4.30pm when the flight should have landed.
So that’s where the fun really started. Eventually we land at an airport some 350km away from our original destination. Which we are eventually shipped back to, very slowly, on a bus. I’ll leave you to imagine the level of information and assistance that was provided at each stage. The crowning glory was dumping the entire group, including some quite distressed elderly people and two people in wheelchairs, on the pavement outside a now completely closed airport at almost 2am. From where it’s a bit tricky for anyone to get to their hire car (shut) or bed for the night (many had private rentals booked, who don’t exactly have 24hr reception).
With the level of customer care already established, the coach driver even felt quite comfortable employing the world’s largest Gallic Shrug in the face of a lot of panic, and leaving everyone to unload their own cases – a nice extra touch.
So, can social media save the day?
But, I’ve had some fantastic responses from other organisations over Twitter when things have gone wrong, so I thought i’d try out the “all the best customer service staff get allocated to Twitter” theory. Which EasyJet proceeded to blow out of the water – although to be fair, it may turn out that this is stellar compared with the responses over other channels, who knows.
So here it is: the guide to using social media to ensure your aggrieved customer will never, ever buy from you again. With grateful thanks to EasyJet for the illustrative tweets.
Masterclass point 1: On no account try to make it easier for your customer to correspond with you – YOU make the rules here, dammit, and they need to work to them.
Masterclass point 2: by the time you’ve made the customer jump through hoops, ensure you’ve totally forgotten what the conversation was about.
Masterclass Point 3: a double whammy. Point A: On no account empower your staff to take ownership of a situation. Point B: invoke infuriating platitudes at the first possible opportunity. **
Masterclass point 4: If in doubt, fall back on whatever corporatespeak is standard for your industry. In this case, blame everything on “safety” or “data protection” (see below).
Masterclass point 5: ON NO ACCOUNT use a social CRM or make any other attempt to keep track of the conversation. That should make it easier to “misunderstand” what you’re being told.
Extra points if you can get in a misguided and unnecessary (so i’m told by a qualified expert on the legislation) reference to Data Protection.
Masterclass point 6: Congratulations! You’ve reduced your pesky customer to banging their head on a wall in frustration. Having proved you’re utterly useless, the customer will go away and not bother you again. Or ever use your products and services, but never mind!
** You may be amused (or not) to hear that the Customer Satisfaction Manager’s response was to send me an email reiterating that EasyJet are sorry, (but, my inference, not sorry enough to compensate us or improve the way they handle these situations). But they hope that we’ll travel again with them very soon.
What have we learned?
You just have to ask, what is the POINT of all of this? Why bother having a Twitter account if the people using it don’t know how to follow a conversation on Twitter, and have no authority to take action of any kind?
I wish I could answer that, but I can’t – except to say once again that if your company culture and customer service is poor, do not touch social media with a barge pole. Expectations are higher on social media, and people expect to be treated thoughtfully and as individuals, not fobbed off with corporate rubbish. If that isn’t possible for whatever reason, you’re going to fail horribly.