I spend a fair amount of time thinking about who would benefit from monitoring services, and one industry that consistently pops to the top of my mental list is the air travel industry. After seeing post after post about passenger travel woes, I can’t help but think that if they aren’t monitoring blogs, forums, and message boards, they’re missing a significant chunk of customer feedback.
Occasionally, feedback isn’t necessary to determine what customers are thinking—for example, when an airline leaves a plane full of people sitting on the tarmac for eight hours. (Hint: they aren’t happy.)
But what about this story of a type-1 diabetic who received what can be charitably described as inconsiderate treatment at the hands of not one, but two flight stewards on the same flight? Blogs are an outlet for human emotion and the human experience, and any company that has customers should look at this feedback as an open invitation to find out what they can (and should) do better. Empathy training apparently might be a good idea.
While I’m sure that Continental has its fair share of airline woes, they seem to “get it,” although it’s probably more accurate to say that they have had the sense to allow an employee who does “get it” to function in this space. This Washington Post article outlines how Scott O’Leary of Continental monitors chat rooms and forums, posts responses, and makes recommendations to company executives to “prevent similar foul-ups” in the future. Continental has allowed Scott to be an active participant in a dialogue with their customers. Smart.
In contrast, United Airlines (from the same article) “created its own version of the chat rooms in April and invited 200 of its highest-mileage fliers to join the private discussions.” Um, no. They don’t “get it.” Inviting your best passengers, who always get upgrades, to participate in a controlled environment that you own, is not examining customer feedback. It’s creating a nice focus group that might have a few gripes, but for the most part they’re going to be a homogenous lot. Honestly, this blog has a great write up and does a point-by-point dissection of what’s wrong with United’s approach (pun not intended, but noted).
Oh, and if US Airways (or someone on their behalf) is monitoring blogs—like this one—please fix your broken “Lost and Found” page. Consumerist has pointed out repeatedly that it’s broken…so they call the number…which directs them to the broken page…
(Update: I inadvertantly left off my H/T to Professor Bainbridge for the post inspiration and several links. Sorry!)