Bye bye call centre, hello TwitterMarch 18th, 2010 by mark
Twitter continues to amaze me with its ability to act as an effective customer service tool. As far as I’m concerned, I’m never picking up the phone again to deal with a customer service dispute. It’s just not as effective. Let me tell you a story about how WestJet used Twitter to completely turn around a negative experience.
I was booked on a flight with WestJet from Toronto to Atlantic City and found out 10 days before the flight was to leave that it had it been cancelled. Long story short, I was stuck and needed to re-book alternate transportation with a higher priced, last minute ticket on another airline. My out-of-pocket expenses were $1000. Was I mad? Yes, seething mad.
What made me really mad was not just the extra expense, but rather the weak response I received from WestJet’s main customer service line. When speaking to the rep, she was not even sympathetic to the inconvenience. “We reserve the right to cancel flights and while we regret this inconvenience, blah blah blah.”
At this point, I was not prepared to invest any more emotional energy. So I turned to Twitter.
Within a few hours, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from “Greg” via Direct Message asking me to email him the details at firstname.lastname@example.org. It felt good that my comment had registered and someone was listening.
Within 1-2 days, I received a telephone call from a senior member of WestJet’s customer service team, Seth Lennea. Seth was pleasant, professional and seemed genuinely committed to solving my problem. After providing him the details of the expenses incurred, he came back to me within 24 hrs, offering to reimburse my extra costs in the form of a WestJet voucher (something I will use as I travel often). While I wish this whole thing had never happened in the first place, in a strange way, I feel even more loyal to WestJet than I did before the flight was cancelled.
Bottom line – kudos to WestJet for turning a bad experience into a positive one worth talking about.
What did I learn from this experience?
1. Smart companies are embracing Twitter to address customer service problems quickly.
2. Smart companies who employ tactic #1 are reaping huge benefits as the exchange is done in public (while a phone conversation with a call centre rep is done in private).
3. As its popularity grows, Twitter may soon become as inefficient as the call centre when it comes to resolving customer service problems, but for now, this is uncharted territory.
4. I think the smartest companies will be consistent in their approach to customer service, regardless of how the customer engages them (mail, fax, email, call centre, blogs, in person twitter, smoke signal, etc). In my example, this is an opportunity for improvement at WestJet.
5. Smart companies recognize that resolving customer service problems represent a spectacular marketing opportunity. Making something right is best way to keep a customer for life. It’s hard to put a price tag on that.