Recently, I had a great bad experience in brand social media use. It was great as a timely reminder of the danger of impersonal customer engagement, especially for someone who works in customer loyalty. It was bad because that lesson came at the expense of hours wasted at the airport.
My husband and I flew back from overseas and waited with a large crowd for nearly an hour and half for the first pieces of luggage to appear.
While waiting, I tweeted to the airline:
“@XXXXX, passengers have waited over an hour for their bags.”
Within a minute, the airline tweeted back:
“This is not what we like to hear. Thanks for all of your patience.”
We then found ourselves among the unlucky few to be standing at the baggage carousel when the belt stopped moving. (Anyone who’s been in this situation knows that’s the time to hurry to the airline office to start filling out forms.)
When the bags didn’t show, I tweeted:
“@XXXXX, waited for nearly two hours and bags never arrived.”
Again, within a minute, a reply came:
“We’re sorry that your bags didn’t arrive to you. We hope you’re reunited soon. We’re here if you need us.”
Where Was Customer Loyalty Management in This?
What the airline didn’t know was the most important piece of customer service: They didn’t know my status, my purchasing patterns, and, most telling, they didn’t even ask which flight I was on. That made their responses impersonal and didn’t strengthen our relationship in any way. They missed an excellent opportunity to serve my needs with more than, “We’re here if you need us.” (Hint: I needed you…)
It could be that, like many brands, their social media presence is primarily a defense for negative comments and not a way to engage. They can do such much better than that.
Having an impersonal experience with a brand can be worse than having no interaction at all, especially when the experience comes across as automated and/or stiff. Customers are savvy when it comes to spotting manipulation and very unforgiving as well.
Making the experience more personal, which would have been as easy as asking a question, determining my loyalty status, and offering a call or follow up, would have gone an enormous distance in how I saw the situation. Ultimately, it would save work for the airline in following up to service complaints and increase revenue by earning my trust.
But let’s be fair—I doubt the airline had a customer loyalty system in place that could have made their response any better than it was. Without a way to engage customers across the channels of their choice, including Twitter, companies are blind to the sentiments of their biggest spending customers. They are, at best, a simple points-and-card program that serves its customers in transactional ways rather than emotionally.
Customer loyalty management requires a holistic view of the customer characteristics, their preferred channels of communication, and the context of each interaction. Putting this together in pieces is expensive and risky, and unnecessary when you have platforms that can blend historical interaction with what’s happening in the moment.
Are you ready to personally serve your customers?
This post first appeared on the Loyalty Lab Blog and has been lightly edited.