Archive for the ‘practical’ 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.

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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.

Proof:
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!

It is a given, mobile technology is at the forefront of our digital lives and, well, I for one spend most of my public transportation time tweeting from my BlackBerry. Correction: transportation time. [And here is the disclaimer: I don’t tweet and drive. I just quit driving a couple of years back, at least in Paris where I live now.]

Expectations
Not only do I tweet on public transportation time but I also start and maintain conversations with transportation companies (airlines and train so far) across the globe when I happen to be one of their million customers. And of course, I do want my voice to be heard when I need to talk to them *AND* I want them to reply to me and find a solution to whatever issue I’m facing while in their hands. Of course, I expect all of that to happen in a timely manner too, given that our communication channel is a real-time wire – Twitter.

Three Real Stories – Cases
I have been able to experiment a few times the crisis communication dis/abilities of some airlines and of a train company over the past eight months so I’ve decided to share the stories to see how they constitute cases for various levels of crises. All of those happened over Twitter, on my handle, Merrybubbles. There will be three of them, like the three monkeys on the picture below (taken during a trip to Barcelona in January). Three Twitter encounters with transportation companies’ customer services. I will go through them in reverse chronological order.


Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil

Who? Where?
The first installment will be about Eurostar, zipping back and forth between Paris and London. The second one will take us to the marvelous world of Delta Airlines@DeltaAssist service while in Atlanta, GA. And the third one will see us onboard and on the ground with Cathay Pacific in Singapore and Hong Kong.

The series will start on Monday so please, stay tuned!

If you already have Twitter ‘tales’ with customer services to share, drop me a line in comments!

See you on Monday and enjoy a peaceful weekend all. Don’t forget to lend a hand to Japan while you’re in front of your computer – they still need us.

Something practical and fun for a Friday post.
If you’re uninitiated to dim sum ordering, here’s your bible, your dim sum 101. I found this via a tweet by Avinash. As he pointed out, the last step on this infographic is the funniest.

How to order dim sum for the uninitiated

How to order dim sum for the uninitiated

Don’t know Avinash? He’s Avinash Kaushik, author, blogger and super analytics evangelist at Google. Some call him a “guru.” As always, he’ll be with Incisive Media‘s Search Engine Watch and ClickZ at Search Engine Strategies Chicago (or SES Chicago) this month.

Here’s all you’ve always wanted to know about how Google search works but never dared ask. Or maybe you did ask. And if so, here’s a pretty good answer in just one infographic, courtesy of PPC Blog. Click on the image to enlarge.

How Does Google Work?

Infographic by PPC Blog

Bookmark and Share

Last week’s summary in order of recency… Click on headlines to read stories. No stories on Monday, May 29th, Memorial Day.

First, a thank you note to and from our editor, Jonathan Allen aka @jc1000000
Search Marketing Thought-Leadership Recap, May 2010

Friday June 4th
Local Search Localeze Launches Business Registration Manager To Boost Customer Confidence
DoubleClick Invests In Real-Time Online Ads Bidding With Invite Media Buy

Thursday June 3rd
U.S. April Mobile Searches Get 90% Boost Via Apps, 50% Via Browsers; Social Networking Still Biggest
Online Video Is Really The Next Big Thing [Study]
Marin Software Raises $11.2 Mln To Boost Development

Wednesday June 2nd
WordTracker Partners With Majestic SEO To Create Link Building Intelligence Tool
World Cup 2010 Sets UK Searches Abuzz
Advertisers’ Budget Splurge On “Lost” Finale Well Worth Their Money – And Yours
–> this is my favorite ! Amazing numbers, if you ask me

Tuesday June 1st
Apple Faces Multiple DoJ And FTC Inquiries Over Music, Adobe And Mobile Ads
Facebook Under U.S. Judiciary Committee Scrutiny Over Privacy Issues
Foursquare Inks Refinery Media Deal in Singapore

Happy reading !

A provocative Friday read from guest contributor Zeke Camusio, founder of Internet marketing company http://www.TheOutsourcingCompany.com. Happy reading and happy weekend to everyone!

My parents always told me that I needed to work hard in order to be successful. As I started growing up, I realized that not only was this not true, but the hardest working people I knew were always struggling and people who weren’t working half as hard were ten times more successful. This made me re-think everything.

I know a lot of rich people and they approach business very differently from the way most entrepreneurs do. Some of them work hard and some of them don’t, but they all work SMART. I know, you’ve heard it before, “working smart is more important than working hard”, but, what does working smart mean anyway?

A friend of mine explained this to me with only one word: “leverage”. He told me that rich people are experts at using other people’s resources and helping them benefit them from the same deals they do.

Other People’s Money
Successful businesspeople know that you don’t need your own money to succeed. A lot of people have a lot of money and they’re just waiting for the perfect opportunity to invest it.

Other People’s Connections
Let’s say you’re trying to get an appointment with the CEO of a venture capital firm. Would it be a lot easier if your partner introduced you to her?

Other People’s Ideas
Successful people get approached all the time by entrepreneurs with great business ideas.

Other People’s Time
Maybe you have the money, an idea and the connections, but don’t have the time to launch a new venture. Well, there are thousands of qualified people out there who have the time to help you.

Other People’s Experience
If you were to open a restaurant, would you rather do it yourself or with someone who already owns five successful restaurants in town?

Last But Not Least – Create Win-Win Situations
Just to be clear: using other people’s resources doesn’t mean that they’re doing you a favor. You have to offer them a deal that works for them too.

Summary
Successful businesspeople are connectors. They use other people’s resources to build great things. They see the full picture and put the pieces together. Learn from them and emulate what they do.

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A thought provoking act. This is exactly where I draw the line between selfishness and business. Truth is, connectors are great at giving but it’s harder for them to take. I highly recommend reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, where he explains the three types of people who, once connected, can create a buzz, a viral spread of anything. The connectors, the mavens and the salespeople.
Which one are you ?

This post comes from guest contributor Linky van der Merwe, founder of Virtual Project Consulting and social media strategist. Linky is based in South Africa.

If you have chosen Twitter as one of your social media tools in your social networking strategy, then what follows may be applicable to you.

I want to share with you the 5 main benefits of marketing your business with Twitter and some tactics on how to do that:

Generate interest in your business in addition to generating traffic to your website or blog.
There are a number of ways to do so. First, create catchy Tweets. For example, do you sell a new eco-friendly product? If so, don’t just instruct people to buy your product, but ask for their feedback. Ask how it can help the environment. Then, ask your followers to forward information on your product to their contacts. When you have a catchy message and product or service, it is easy to generate interest on Twitter.

Make a sale.
Regardless of whether you sell a product or a service, a sale will generate income. By increasing visitors to your website, you increase your chances of making a sale.

Obtain feedback.
A great way to subtly increase traffic to your website or blog is to ask for feedback. By providing a link, you will not only get website traffic, but you will also get what you asked for, feedback.

Use Twitter to update your clients.
When connecting with clients, invite them to opt-in to your newsletter, or to your Twitter updates. You can share promotional codes, new product releases and so forth.

Use Twitter to hire help.
Whether you want to hire a full-time employee or outsource a project or two, you can ue Twitter to find qualified individuals to do the work.
Implement some or all of these Twitter tactics and keep using the ones that bring most results for your business.

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Warm thanks to Linky for sharing her insights. Follow Linky on Twitter @virtualpm.
Would you have additional tips to add to this list ? Let us know !

Feel free to connect on Twitter, I’m @merrybubbles… Who are you ?