Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The New Weapon?

On Saturday, March 13, a flight was grounded on the tarmac of JFK due to severe storms and strong winds. David Martin, CEO of the social networking site, happened to use a iPhone app to update his own Kontain account with images and videos of what was happening on the flight.

Due to the way the situation was handle by the airline, Virgin America, all passangers were offered a $100 Virgin America voucher. Martin actually ended up speaking to the CEO of Virgin America, David Cush, and the reimbursement was then changed to include a full refund for those inconvenienced by the extreme delays as well as the $100 voucher.

What really interests me here is what Martin said about social media (though, he may be biased since he is the CEO of a social networking site...or he may have more insight...who's to say).He said, "You can't just write in a complaint or call customer service media, it's the only weapon."

This reminded me of the recent story of Kevin Smith being kicked off a plane for being erroneously deemed, in his own words, "Too Fat To Fly". During this whole ordeal Smith used his twitter to update his 1.6 million followers and when he arrived at home he, and his wife, made a podcast (affectionately referred to as a SModcast) about the whole situation. Although the incident was skewed through the media and poor reporting, despite a live twitter feed and podcast recounting the event, it did catch the airline's attention rather quickly as they leaped up to defend their decision and received much backlash from Smith fans and followers.

Kevin Smith even warned the customer service agent dealing with him at the airport that he was going to use his platform, twitter and SModcast, and reach out to the public regarding the circumstances. For more information about the Southwest Air/Kevin Smith ordeal, go to his blog:

What is interesting to me, besides the fact that these are two situations involving poorly handled flight issues, is the use of social media. I've written letters to various types of customer service. I've spent time making my arguement concise, valid and factual and still trying to reflect my personal situation, only to be sent a form letter. A reply that rarely touches on the issue at hand and instead a generalized, standard model of a letter which is sent out, en masse, to pacify pissed off customers/clients.

I believe in paper work. I believe in having documentation of my experiences, whether they be complaint, file work, resumes or even compliments of services rendered. I believe in it because I want to play the game by their rules, hoping I'll be rewarded for it. But I can see how social media is getting a quicker response, while us who are told "If you're not pleased, you can write a letter" and do so, are not heard.

Perhaps my policy should change. Document and then make it public. I'm not so delusional as to think that my voice will be as heard, as reported and as listened to as someone with more fame or power then I. But I do know this; nothing creates a faster reaction then embarrassment. Growing up, I was never the kid having a screaming fit in the toy store. As an employer, I do not reward those who complain the most simply so I do not have to hear them anymore. But it's becoming more apparent that the usual routes of communication with major companies are less effective and more easily ignored. It's time to step it up a notch and use the devices we've been given such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogspot and Tumblr as a loudspeaker instead of a diary.

Too quote the show "The Boondocks" - " Fun Fact: Nothing typed by somebody's thumbs has ever been important." I think that is about to change. Who's with me?

To close out this ranty entry (aren't they all?) here is Fatboy Slim's video/song "Weapon of Choice"
Interesting lyric "Listen to the sound of my voice/ you can check it on out, it's the weapon of choice"

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