Archive for the ‘Inspiring’ Category

This post is the first installment of the three-part series on Twitter’s Voice In Transportation Customer Service: Three Cases. Putting companies through the social CRM test.


I think we all remember the ordeal of the Eurostar passengers who got caught in the tunnel under the Channel between the UK and France in December 2009. A whole night trapped in there. At that time, the customer service of Eurostar took a threshing for the mal-use (if that’s not a word, it should be unstated as one!) of Twitter and the media didn’t give the train company much of a chance either.

However, a year later, very few were still openly monitoring the situation and the only piece I could find was by TechCrunch UK: One year after a Twitter backlash, has Eurostar finally got social media?.

Luckily (or nit), just one day after that TechCrunch post was published, I was getting on the Eurostar to return home to Paris after a short stay in blizzard-battered London.

Blizzard-battered London (Old Brompton, Kensington - 12/2010) by Liva Judic

Airports closed their runways, flights were cancelled… but strangely enough, the Eurostar was still running albeit with some delay. So I board the white, yellow and dark blue train with great hope of getting home without having to spend any time but the 20 regular minutes in the tunnel. Of course, it was packed. So off we go… And, as usual, off I go too, tweeting away for a few minutes before getting a file out to work on.

First stop, Ashford International where the train usually drops off some commuters and picks up a few passengers to Lille in France (also commuters, i suppose). But then, the train just stays there and we’re ordered to unboard. So I tweet.
Eurostar CRM tweet1 Merrybubbles

And much to my surprise, Eurostar replies with an apology. I can’t remember how long it took but it was reasonable, given that I had simply *not* expected anything from them.

Eurostar CRM tweet2 Merrybubbles

What happened next was extremely interesting. They got us to park in the departure lounge of that small station, where one third of us couldn’t sit. I tweeted to ask the reason why we were stuck since no announcements had been made. They tweeted me back that they had to change the train before making the official announcement in the microphone. Then I tweeted that some people needed to sit and that water or snacks wouldn’t be a bad idea to make us wait. You can see the sequence for yourselves:

Eurostar CRM tweet3 Merrybubbles

Right after that, again, the official announcement was made that water and snacks would be distributed in one single place. There was a rush and within less than a minute, the small reserves they had brought out disappeared. Then another tweet on my part to let them know what had been going on and they served more bottles of water. As an observing participant, I could see groups forming for food — including that one I found myself in: “I get water, who gets snacks? And soft drinks? Gums?,” said one of the people standing next to me, talking to a group of us. Like survival in a train station guide. Reminded me of Lost, the multi-million dollar revenue TV series whose finale was the advertising coup of 2010.
Eurostar CRM tweet4 Merrybubbles

We finally boarded another train and carried on our journey without getting stalled (thank goodness) inside the tunnel.
But on and on it went, with Eurostar not providing information to passengers, me asking for it and Eurostar broadcasting their replies. All the way to Paris, where we finally arrived just after 1.30 AM, i.e. the following day.
I also asked what sort of compensation we would get and they announced on the train that ground staff would help us with compensation claims, saying that they would offer a free return in the same class of travel.

Quick analysis
Initial reaction time was good.
Content was spot on: an apology and promise to do their best.
Then the follow-up was of the poorest quality: customers were kept in the dark unless someone asked for information. I wondered to myself whether I was the only person tweeting the episode since they seemed to follow my cues so closely.

We were handed a phone number to call to redeem our free return tickets. The service there was just perfect, really efficient and smooth (at least the English-speaking one, which is the one I asked to be connected to).

Three weeks later, I boarded the Eurostar again on their freebie for a Paris-London excursion. I was glad I had two work meetings with prospects and could make it without forking out the money upfront (one of the prospects is now a Merrybubbles client for outreach on new media and social, yay!). Service onboard was particularly excellent on the way out so I tweeted it. It was not comparable on the way back (the attendant clearly had an attitude), and so I also tweeted it. On both occurrences, Eurostar replied. First, that they were pleased then that they wanted the train and car number to make sure service would always be good. So good points there. Just for the record, I did not heed to report the attendant however irritating his attitude had been — we all have bad days.

Since then, I’ve been going back and forth twice and am again planning to go in just over a week. And finally, I decided to enroll as a Frequent Traveller again. I used to be one in the very early days of Eurostar, in 1995 – I lived in London and I would visit my family in France quite often. During a whole week, I tried to clock in my various tickets but the process would stall at stage 3 for no reason. So in the end, I sent Eurostar an email to tell them exactly that, specifying that no matter which options I picked or not, it still would not work. Their response, once again, was pathetic: they said that I might have not entered my phone number correctly (although, given their online form, “no matter what options I picked” meant that there was no difference whether I entered a phone number or not at all). In short, they blamed the customer for not filling in the form properly when it’s clearly their platform that is experiencing problems. And as if it were not enough, they attached a form to be returned to them via snail mail. What a fail!!

Lucky for me, on Friday last week, I retweeted an article about social and customer service, saying that I just had had another “epic fail” from Eurostar:

Eurostar CRM tweet0 Merrybubbles

Then I elaborated a little further on my latest frustration by way of the following tweet.

See — another excuse: not able to read my email? Yes, Eurostar, you were able to read and, point in case, you replied. Something totally inappropriate but you indeed replied. They must have realized it because a few minutes later, the finally decide to follow me and subsequently send me this tweet (I’ll let you enjoy their Twitter profile background now that you have seen my tweet):
Eurostar CRM tweet6 Merrybubbles

Way more satisfactory. I DM’ed them my cellphone number. Within the next half hour, Jeremy DUCK from the Eurostar customer service calls. Sends me an email with another form to fill and send right back. Within an hour of my tweet, I was registered as a Frequent Traveler.

What I take away from this is that Eurostar still has some way to go to truly and fully leverage their real-time and social customer service. As it is, it is hugely uneven in quality and it seems that the procedure for crisis communication has not been clearly defined yet. Because I simply cannot believe that a social agency or head of PR in this day and age would set the rules for a blame game on false pretences as a first contact reply. I’m sure whoever they hired to help them with social is good but they may have omitted to train everyone across the various services. As Kate Spiers of Wisdom London put it in her comments of the TechCrunch post, “their Twitter presence is structured very much in terms of organisational / internal structures and siloes and NOT in terms of customer needs, expectations or even logic.”

As I was reading my Twitter timeline this morning, I saw the following Quora question pass by: Is social media the solution to bad customer service? So it made me think. Is it the social part or the customer service part that is flawed in Eurostar’s case? I think it’s a bit of both. I agree with Kate’s position above and truth is that the quality of one (or lack thereof) affects the other as they mutually sustain one another.

To conclude, I’d say the reply by Vladimir Dimitroff, aka Maistora on Twitter, is the by far the best: “The only solution to bad customer service is better customer service.”

On those words, I hope you enjoyed this journey with Eurostar and hope to see you soon (next week) for the second installment of the series, which will be about my experience with the social customer service of the airline Cathay Pacific.

Comments, experience sharing etc welcome!

And you, dear Eurostar, see you in a few days again. Good on you for the latest move with the swift Frequent Traveller enrollment after our Twitter conversation. Amazing what customers can do with a mobile phone!

Happy Monday!

To start the week, here is an infographic by brandpilgrim , an innovative firm doing “visual thinking on culture, brands & social media.”

Click on image to visualize full size.

Comments are yours.

As I’m readying to go see my friend Teresa Herrera (yes, check that link, will ya?) in L.A., I wanted to share my discovery mood through this video. “Guy Walks Across America” went viral right away: it’s a man trekking from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge in 2 minutes.

Here it is for you to enjoy. See if you can spot places you recognize and tell me which they are.

This post is dedicated to Teresa Herrera 🙂

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Yay! It’s Friday. Here’s today’s light post.

Here are three flash mobs, two of them (the Swedish and NYC ones) being classics. I love flash mobs because they are often an expression of collective happiness. For those taking part, all’s been prepared but for those watching, it’s always surprising and amusing, albeit sometimes intriguing. Flash mobs are great vehicles of viral good mood and having them on social media supports helps spread the luv worldwide. I hope you enjoy those as much as I do.


New York Grand Central Station

San Francisco Gay Pride

Social advertising is always tricky. How efficient, how sticky will this video prove to be? What impact will the call for action have? … But let’s start with one simple question first: how do *you* like it?

Not digital per se but a discovery through digital buzz: turning Paris into a giant playground.
Light and airy… perfect for a Friday post.

by Professor Jennifer Aaker.

I’m *really* thrilled to introduce you to Jennifer Aaker, General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford University, CA, who wrote this post for HushPlush Bubble. Enjoy!

Two years ago, I thought social media and its applications were quite simply a waste of time. Who would want follow random people on Twitter, Tweet about grocery store experiences, or update their Facebook status to say they have a case of the Mondays? I thought: would I ever want to do any of this instead of:

  • enjoying the sunshine,
  • working on a research paper, or
  • talking to someone IN REAL LIFE?

With only one foot in social media, I was looking for a way out. But my husband, Andy Smith, an early-adopter of all things tech and geek par excellence kept me in. I saw him surf the space, learn fascinating, obscure stuff, sign on to betas of scores of services and meet fascinating new people. I thought there was a small chance I might be able to get just a tiny glimmer of the value he saw in the space, and though I was doing my best to hang on with an open mind, I was really just looking for a plausible reason to completely bail out.

It all changed for me in May 2008. I was teaching a class called Creativity and Innovation at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. On the last day of most of my classes, I summarize my ‘top ten’ list – insights I hoped students took away from the class. However, after many years of teaching, I finally realized my summaries were rarely ‘sticky.’ Few people seemed to get much out of them and it was just better to ask students what they learned. My MBA student, Robert Chatwani, responded that he learned to ‘reverse the rules’ to a greater degree, and shared a slide deck to illustrate how he and his friends and family tried to adopt that ‘reverse the rules’ philosophy during that semester. Earlier in the year, his best friend, Sameer Bhatia, was diagnosed with leukemia. He needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. Doctors estimated Sameer’s chances of finding a match at 1 in 20,000. Robert and Sameer’s friends and family took that challenge as simple and clear. If the chances were 1 in 20,000 to find a match, that meant all they had to do was register 20,000 South East Asians into the bone marrow registry. But they had only weeks to accomplish this goal. The story that Robert then told changed me fundamentally. He laid out how Sameer’s friends and family harnessed free social media – personal blogs, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Google Docs – as well as email and some traditional media – to get 24,611 South East Asians into the bone marrow registry in 11 short weeks. And among those 24,611 was a perfect match for Sameer.

This story changed me fundamentally; it became clear that – with a single clear goal, and an ability to understand:

  • the psychology of grabbing attention,
  • how to tell a story to engage others, and
  • how to design for openness (enabling anyone with will to act easily and nimbly),

…social media could be used for extreme good, in a way that is astonishingly effective. This story also has changed my family’s life. It has motivated the creation of a Stanford GSB case, a Stanford GSB elective, a book, The Dragonfly Effect that Andy and I co-authored as well as a business, Vonavona Ventures that Andy started to support organizations that take a hybrid approach to success.

Here’s the video:

Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming book The Dragonfly Effect, Design For The Ripple Effect, due out this Fall. Many many thanks to Jennifer and Andy for this contribution and for letting me contribute my drop to their book.

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter, she is @aaker and Andy is @kabbenbock.
As always, feel free to connect with @merrybubbles