Stand out experiences have the power to change brand perception, drive customer loyalty, increase revenue, and build deep relationships.
When I travel, I do whatever I can to get home as early as possible. That means cobbling together flight schedules that get me home quickly. Logging hundreds of thousands of miles split between several carriers is far from ideal, and if you traveled as frequently as I do you would think that at some point I would have picked an airline and stuck with it. Today I have, but it wasn't until I was wowed by a stand out approach to customer service just a couple of years ago.
It was February and I was off to Tampa, FL to speak at Jason Keath's SOCIAL FRESH Conference. On this particular occasion I flew Delta Airlines and arrived at Tampa early the morning of February 8th. I delivered the session, spent some time networking, and hurried back to the airport to catch the evening flight home. On the way to the airport I checked my flight status and, low and behold, I was shocked to discover that I was headed to the airport on the wrong day. My official flight was scheduled to depart Tampa at the same time the following day. As you can imagine I panicked and did what anyone would: I called Delta to sort this mess out.
The Delta representative I spoke to told me he could help, but that I would have to stay on the phone with him for about 30 minutes due to a computer system issue. I thought nothing of it and we made small talk as he maneuvered through the painstaking process of rebooking my flight manually. After some small talk and banter - Success! I was booked on that night's flight and made it to the gate just as the doors of the plane were closing. The flight attendant had just jumped on the P.A. and told us to stow our electronic devices as I sent out a tweet:
I arrived home a couple of hours later and was greeted at the front door by a very excited 2-year-old boy who's always happy when dad makes it home on time.
I thought nothing of the tweet I had sent until the next morning, when I checked Twitter and found a response from @DeltaBlog:
"To that new baby," I thought. "How the $#@! did they know that?"
Let me explain what I thought had happened before I let you in on the reality. During that conversation with Delta Customer Service I thought he had collected and recorded information on me in his customer relationship management (CRM) system. The data collected during our conversation allowed him to build out a broad and deep customer profile on me. I assumed that my tweet triggered some sort of an alert letting Delta know I had made a comment. Someone on the social media team saw the comment, pulled up my profile, and replied with a personalized message based on the details in my profile. "Amazing," I thought.
It was such a stand out experience for me that I immediately contacted Delta to understand what happened behind the scenes. That's when Delta's Social Media Manager, Rachael Rensink, shed some light on what actually happened. She told me that the day I was traveling back to Boston was also the day of one of the worst blizzards to hit the Washington, D.C. area. It dumped several feet of snow in the region and caused significant travel delays across the country. Rachael, who was monitoring Twitter that day, was inundated with negative tweets from weary travelers and was doing her best to resolve as many issues as possible. My tweet represented the lone piece of positive sentiment in a sea of negativity. When she saw it, she clicked through to my profile, went to my blog, learned about my background and concluded I must be hurrying home to see my son. She had singled me out and responded accordingly.
Delta's approach was stand out. Rachael did not simply respond to my Tweet with a canned response; she paid attention and went the extra mile to personalize the interaction. This was a rare 'customer wow moment' and a stand out example of a brand 'paying attention.' For the first time in years of flying, I was able to connect with an airline carrier on a one-to-one basis, and in a way that didn't involve sitting on hold for 45 minutes until someone had time for me. This time they reached out to me in a direct, simple, and meaningful way. This humanized the brand's image, made Delta more than a faceless company and created real brand loyalty with a customer.
Since this experience Delta has remained my carrier of choice. Social media offers the opportunity to create unique experiences like this that lead to lasting connections. This is why using social to stand out is so important. It offers brands the ability to create relationships and create a lifetime of loyalty.