Last week’s post (and subsequent Tweets) elicited responses from some nice people at American Airlines, one of whom is a VP at American Eagle.
They refunded our airfares (we never did get to our final destination) and, all in all, were very pleasant in resolving a lot of my concerns. It took them a while.
Lesson 1: Handle complainers fairly and promptly and you’ll probably get them back as customers, happier customers.
Along the way, a lot of my blog and Twitter friends tweeted and emailed about their AA problems. I hope the airline, at least for its own sake, does its best to help them out. If I owned AA, I’d get helpful people online and on the phone immediately.
The problems I heard about (as well as my own problems) rarely had anything to do with bad weather or mechanical problems. We’re all grownups and we know that stuff happens. The problem is always the way a company handles customers’ issues. It’s a lot like the bigger problem politicians always seem to create after they’re caught doing something stupid. The inevitable dissembling, outright lying and tap dancing for the media – the spin – cause more problems than the original offense.
Lesson 2: Tell the truth.
I was talking to a west coast friend last night. His name is Dwain and he’s an online whiz. He suggested that maybe American Airlines shouldn’t even be involved in social media. They’re not dedicating enough resources to it. He might be right; as near as I can tell, AA has two people working on Twitter and, apparently, neither works on weekends. Again, if I owned the company, I’d have more people, with some company clout, ready, able and, most of all, willing to help customers solve their problems.
Lesson 3: Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.
Above all, don’t do what AT&T does – threaten customers who have problems. I found this unbelievably ham-handed and so will you: econsultancy.com
Lesson 4: They’re your customers for crying out loud. Treat them badly and they’ll tell two friends who’ll each tell two friends, and sooner or later one or more of them will eventually tell the whole world … which they can do just by typing a few words and hitting “Post”.
On my AA debacle-trip, I was traveling with a friend. Neither of us racks up hundreds of thousands of miles in the air every year but we do fly a lot, perhaps 40 flights a year between us. Nobody in the Chicago airport the night the debacle went down, seemed to understand that we, and probably a lot of our fellow passengers, represented significant business – and that’s not counting all the people we influence.
Lesson 5: Know you’re customer. Get gate people and phone people to look us up and react accordingly. Treating everyone fairly is a good idea; treating really good customers fairly is a great idea.
How do you think American Airlines and companies like them should handle the complaints they get – given their tiny social media presence? Please let me know, because maybe we can help them and ourselves.