I guess I have Twitter to thank, but really the kudos goes to ^JF on @DeltaAssist, who played the proverbial Ace of Spades in the Flip the Funnel Deck of Card. He talked to me. He asked if I'd be open to talking on the phone:
He heard me. He listened to me. We had a conversation. He solved my problem. It worked both ways. I even offered to give a keynote presentation of Flip the Funnel to his colleagues.
As far as I'm concerned, the matter is (finally!!!) closed.
Here's what I learned in this very elaborate case of customer activism in an increasingly digital, connected and social world:
- It's never - and I mean - NEVER too late to solve a problem and come good with a slighted customer
- Whilst blogging might have been the first sign of this phenomenon i.e. customer activism - example: Dell Hell, Twitter is the Tipping Point.
- My acronym of what it takes to be a social brand i.e. R.E.A.C.H. (Responsive-Empathetic-Accessible-Connected-Human) really does apply and really does work.
- Anyone can be turned around if there is genuine, authentic committment and intent.
- It's important for "customer activists" to be as vocal about the problem's resolution as they were about the problem itself. In fact, companies have a right to (and should) ask for this. It's only fair
- Whilst Jonathan Salem Baskin has a great point about cost-cutting as a false prophet madsquerading as innovation: Responding to online complaints is a tax that companies pay because of the chronic mismatch between what consumers expect from brands and what they ultimately get (this is without question one of the most brilliant quotes I've read in a long time), he's anywhere on the continuum of mistaken to just plain wrong about the importance of making the effort to engage customers on their terms and on their turf: Tools like Twitter aren't some dream of customer empowerment, but rather the nightmare reality of the broken relationships between consumers and brands. Obviously I don't want to quote him out of context, so perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt insofar that he's referring to a deeper problem which Twitter is just exposing (and magnifying), as opposed to enabling or empowering per se.
- Baskin continues that "an individualized response might momentarily bridge the gap, but it won't fix it. Never will." He's right if he's talking about a templatized or empty automated response - even if it is by a human (see: @bofa_help); but he's a little off the mark if it is prelude to a meaningful conversation or dialogue that ultimately leads to closure. This is the difference between the "A" of Acknowledgment without the "D" of Dialogue from the Flipped Funnel Customer Activization Process.
- So is all of this worth it? Hell yeah. Delta lost probably somewhere in the region of $125,000 or 250,000 miles of business from me (and who knows how much more via negative word-of-mouth or referral halo) We get lost in the potential amplification of social media, when in reality all we should be focusing on the potential of one, singular customer at a time.
- Highlighting is cool on TypePad although now that they've been acquired, hopefully it won't go away. Translation: This isn't rocket science. It's common sense. And it's good business sense. Our customers are human beings. Flawed. Emotional. Often irrational. They're also not "rules" to be engaged. They're not "one size" square pegs that fit into all square holes. Their holes are round. And oval. Sometimes all we need to do is to meet them halfway and/or treat them as individuals. Even craft or customize a solution that works for them. Harder than it sounds, I know...
- "You don't get a second chance to make a good first impression; you do however get a second chance (or third in Delta's case) to make a good second (or third) impression." Delta has me back. It's probation as opposed to exoneration, but (for now), the slate is clean.
Perhaps you see this is just kvetching by loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed "influencers" who have a blog and aren't afraid to use it. Maybe so, but that doesn't excuse the real symptom (hint: it starts with you), so now it's time to get working on the cure (hint: you again)
...and based on their behavior and performance of late, I think Delta is climbing and will "keep climbing" in terms of their ability to foster, nurture and more importantly, harness the power of loyalty, evangelism and advocacy.
Hopefully you will too.
Being grounded isn't much fun nowadays.