Last week I had the privilege of experiencing the phenomenal social care reputation that WestJet has built for itself firsthand.
My birthday was last Friday, June 13th. I was speaking at a conference in New York that ran from June 11-12. I would be flying back to Montreal the night of the 12th, but was only scheduled to arrive after midnight on the 13th – my birthday. I had heard and read stories of the phenomenal social care provided by WestJet, but had yet to experience it myself, so I decided to put their reputation to the test.
I sent out a tweet:
— Corey Padveen (@coreypadveen) June 12, 2014
I didn’t think much of it – maybe I would get a ‘Happy Birthday’ tweet the next day, or at most an announcement on the plane wishing me a happy birthday. Never did I expect the level of social care I received.
What is social care?
First off, what exactly am I referring to when I talk about ‘social care’? Well, social care is a concept that has come about in recent which refers to customer service on social media. In a recent study by Nielsen, it was discovered that one third of online adults prefers to engage with a brand on social media (Twitter, forums, live chat, etc.) rather than through conventional forms of communication (such as the phone or even email). (Source)
The idea behind the former is the concept of social care – providing the customer service experience on these social networks in a very real-time, unfiltered medium. It can be a daunting idea for many brands. Most prefer to stay as far away from this Wild West of customer service altogether. But for those brands that harness it and really apply themselves – creating strategies for every possible scenario – it can pay off in a very big way. Perhaps the most notable example of social care comes from Comcast. A lot of marketers are familiar with this example because of how much this model did to improve the brand’s perception and actual performance.
In 2007, Frank Eliason joined Comcast as their Executive Support Manager. This wasn’t all that glamorous a position considering Comcast was widely seen as having some of the worst support in the industry. Eliason completely turned that around by introducing the world to @ComcastCares, the Twitter support division of Comcast. The idea here was to offer real-time (or close to it) service to customers so they would not have to turn to the phone, on which they had become accustomed to abnormally long wait times. For a lot of marketers, this is a must-know case study. And a lot of companies have implemented equally successful programs, including WestJet.
What’s so great about WestJet?
The last time I flew WestJet, social care – or Twitter, for that matter – did not exist. It’s not that I’ve had a vendetta against the airline, I have simply never booked a flight that happened to be on the airline. But I had read stories. Much like Comcast had done, WestJet had made a name for themselves with a whole slew of social media-heavy stunts. The most recent came at Christmas time, and involved buying a plane-full of people Christmas gifts that were presented at their destination. (You can read a case study I wrote about it here.) I wanted to see if they were as wonderful on the micro level as they when it came to large campaigns. They did not disappoint. Not too long after my initial tweet (see above) I received this:
I was pretty impressed – they were listening to me. I was even more impressed when they informed me that my flight had been delayed due to weather, and I would likely miss my connecting flight and have to spend my birthday in an airport hotel. We went back and forth and they were updating me via direct message on Twitter, and while I wasn’t too happy about the delay, knowing about it long before arriving at the check-in counter softened the blow a little bit.
So, the next morning I woke up at 4 o’clock, prepared myself for an exhausted birthday flight and headed to the airport. I got on my plane, pulled out my tablet and started doing some work. We landed in Montreal at 8:15, and I came out of the walkway to this:
Then there was this:
And finally, once I got to the office, I received this:
@coreypadveen HAPPY BIRTHDAY COREY!
— WestJet (@WestJet) June 13, 2014
I couldn’t believe it. A single tweet resulted in what was hands down the greatest customer service experience I had ever had. (And probably a better one than most people have ever experienced, quite frankly.)
WestJet had gone so far beyond any norms when it came to customer service, simply by listening and responding.
So what can brands learn?
This is a prime example of what people mean when they talk about engagement. Bryan Kramer is known for coining the term H2H – Human 2 Human. That’s really what it’s all about. People want to engage with someone, not a corporate cover. They want to feel like there is someone who actually cares about the customer on the other side. A corporate Twitter account is worthless unless you plan on using it to really connect with your followers on a level deeper than simply referring them to your website.
It might have been a while since I had flown WestJet before, but I can promise you that the next time I take a flight and they offer the route, they’ll be my first choice. That’s the power of social media. It’s that simple.
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