Shipping Cargo and Serving People – What Is Your Social Mentality?

This past week I had a most unpleasant experience traveling with US Airways. Yes, I know. You’ve heard many complaints about airlines before. And typically I do not like to take customer service issues to the social airwaves. Not that there is anything wrong with it … just not me. But US Airways deserves what they get and even more important, they will help me make a social media point as mentioned in the title.

Many have asked me, “what type of company is social media good for,” and for so long I have answered, “any company … social media will work for all.” Well I’ve been wrong. Social media will not work for a company that views its customers like “moving cargo” as opposed to “serving people.” Yes, this is a comment specific for airlines, but you get the metaphor. If a company is solely concerned with the revenue and profit squeeze and really have little regard for the market they serve, how could they ever be good at socializing, engaging, and building relationships?

So here is the short version of my perils. I was flying out of Roanoke to New York and the flight I was to take was 1.5 hours late due to the incoming aircraft. US Airways canceled the outgoing flight due to crew time out. (FAA restricts how long a crew can work continuously.) Look, everyone has flight delays and that is understandable, but if US Airways is running their scheduling so tight to the deadline with little delay margin possible, do they really care about their passengers? There were no more flights out that day to NY, so they rebooked me for a 6am flight the next day. I got up at 4am and as I’m leaving for the airport, I find out the flight has been delayed to 10am due to “mechanical issues.” By the way, they also have a flight at 10:30 to New York so oh what a surprise when one of the morning flights is also canceled and the two flights are combined to one flight out at 10:45. Mechanical issues – BS! Save money with one flight and don’t worry about the passengers that have obligations they cannot attend. One other note … there are no other flights from Roanoke to New York except from US Airways so no need to bother with what the competition might do.

Look, I don’t mean to cry on your shoulder and look for sympathy. Save it for something or someone much more deserving. But I do mean to highlight the utter disregard US Airways has for the people they serve. I also mean to suggest that some brands show the same colors in a more subtle way with their use of social media.

If a given brand or company truly has a much greater regard for profit over concern for the customers they serve, they will likely be very poor at social media. This is because successful social media requires a true interest in connecting with your target market and building relationships. If engagement and building connections are not at the heart of a company, how could they ever have a winning social presence? Examine a number of brands of your choice. Look at their social presence. Social media is a platform to foster relationships. Are the brands you looked at showing signs of “serving people” or “moving cargo” in their social presence? Are they really delivering something of value, or just pushing out their agenda?

Hey – I realize there is a bit of a difference between getting screwed by US Airways on planned flights and how a company exercises their social presence. But both scenarios say something very specific about the company/brand and how they truly feel about their customer. And in both cases, there is a blatant symbolization made and brand reputation is won or lost. Are you helping you’re brand win or lose? Do the right thing.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

13 Comments

Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, customer relations, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

13 responses to “Shipping Cargo and Serving People – What Is Your Social Mentality?

  1. Steve, this is a very interesting perspective. Corporate Australia is almost totally focused on using social media as a broadcast marketing tool. Regardless of what they broadcast as their service standards, there is a disconnect between advertised values and actual service and relationship.
    Relationship, whether it be with your partner or with a corporation requires an agreement between the parties. That agreement requires understanding and respect by all parties. It doesn’t sound like your service provider in this case thought you worthy of that respect and you’re right, corporations and their marketing arms that perceive social media as a new dumping ground for their ad campaigns are missing what the social media revolution is all about. Regards David

  2. David,

    Thanks for the example. I think this is getting to be a bigger problem as more get on board with social media and do not understand the playing field. Social media can NOT be a broadcast marketing tool and dumping ground. Many companies that do so will see negative ramifications.

    Thanks for the contribution and best,
    Steve

  3. Steve,
    Less, ‘Do not understand’, more, ‘Do not care’. A corporation, devoid of a moral charter, becomes a sociopath. That said, perhaps we are coming to a customer version of the ‘ARAB SPRING’ and revolution against this approach is inevitable. Sounds like ‘Hot red’ talk but the real meaning is to underline your original point, ‘it’s about relationship’. That’s what corporations, the workplace, people and social media needs to be about first. Hope you get to fly friendlier skies next time.
    PS: I love making a profit too. ;o)
    Regards
    David

  4. All they need to do is step back and show you they care, how hard is that.

    Especially as the profits made are from the money we pay for service or product, could be so much better if they spent that extra time listening and understanding no only their customer/client but themselves and their role too.

  5. Steve: Great article!

    For business to become a social business you need to integrate “relationships and results”. A new capitalism is being created before our eyes and social key strokes in my humble opinion. And the new paradigm is “Relationship Capitalism”.

    We have taught for a long-time about competitive markets and strategies and that should still be the case. But we need to teach our business leaders and future business leaders more on the best practices on cooperation and earning trust with customers/clients and all stakeholders. These 2 viewpoints are not mutually exclusive.

    I agree with you on authenticity. You cannot fake caring off-line or on-line in social media.

    In fact, is the term “social media” the correct metaphor for describing the importance of building high quality trusted relationships on-line?

    Keep up the good work.

    You are making a difference!

    Regards,
    -Rob

  6. Steve,
    I share your frustration, in general, with companies that don’t acknowledge that their customers are the reason they are in business. Apparently a lot of other people do, too. A study by the Rockefeller Corp found that 68% of people leave a brand for a competitor because they don’t think the brand cares about them. It’s unfortunate in the case of airlines, and certain other industries such as cable TV, that a competitor doesn’t offer a viable alternative. I’d like to believe that brands like US Airways would not survive if people had another choice to fly the same routes.

    Here’s a link to the study as mentioned in a Smashing Mag article:
    http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2011/08/26/taking-a-customer-from-like-to-love-the-ux-of-long-term-relationships/

    Best,
    Deb

  7. Hi Steve,
    Here’s an example of lousy social media work. This company is advertising
    it’s tech expo all over the place, so I contacted them to register for this
    event (Malcolm Gladwell is speaking). http://www.pdspc.com/

    After 5 attempts to contact someone at pds, I was told I do not “qualify” as
    an attendee. If this is indeed a closed event, then why are they using
    social media to promote it? Folks at pds should keep in mind that
    “unqualified” interested parties are potential future customers with lots of
    choices.
    Like your blog; always something interesting here!
    Janet

  8. The company behavior exemplified here isn’t profits vs service, it’s getting by vs profits. Us Air has no long term plan to stay in business as an independent entity. The examples in Steve’s post show anfirm with no solid leadershipmand vision of a future.

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