David J. Danto
Principal Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
The Backwards Twitter Barometer
How Social Media can be used to find out how travel providers are doing
There was an old military joke that said if you followed the signs pointing to the infirmary backwards then you’d find out where all the fun activities were taking place (the actual expression was “where the action is”.) We may not have the signs anymore, but the interesting times we live in do have their on-line equivalents which we can follow backwards to see where the action is – the action in this case being the experiences of happy or miserable fellow travelers in real time.
Twitter (for the three of you who don’t know) is a social media site that people and companies use to send out brief (140 character limit) messages to inform, comment, joke and of course complain. As people decide they want to read your “tweets” they “follow” you to receive them automatically. While some accounts are definitely more popular than others (@CNN has 14 Million followers; @JoeSentMe has about 8,000; and my feed - @NJDavidD- has about 900 ) what makes Twitter unique is that it is a completely level playing field. Anyone can tweet any message to anyone regardless of the number of their followers. And while it isn’t set up to be easy, anyone can see any tweet to anyone. That means a person with no followers can send a tweet to CNN and everyone can look at it and see how CNN replied (as long as they search for the reply first.) So web-browsing over to the Twitter page of the firms in the travel industry - and looking at their replies - is today’s equivalent of following the infirmary signs backwards. What one sees is spin and marketing free responses to real time praise, questions and/or complaints – which can be very revealing about the firm.
Taking a quick peek at “@United” this morning - the United Airlines Twitter page - and clicking “Tweets and Replies” reveals these gems:
Apologies for the delays/cancel. Have you been re-booked? - Our update shows it was due to maintenance. - We're sorry your experience has been less than acceptable with us. Please tell us about it here. - Do you still need assistance, or have you been re-booked? - We understand your anger, unfortunately the extra leg room fee can't be waived. - Once you file the report & our Baggage Team reviews it, they will contact you. You may contact them at 800-XXX-XXXX - Apologies for the delay/cancel. Have you been re-booked? - Although the skies may be clear at your departing, or destination city, the path there, may not be. - Did we get your bags to you? - We understand your disappointment, the terms and conditions are that of the credit card company. - Apologies for the cancellation. Were you able to get re-booked? - We’re working hard to get Wi-Fi on all our flights. You can see how we’re doing here: - Thanks for the tweet. We're happy we were able to get you out, and on your way as well. Enjoy London. - Were you able to get re-booked? - Multiple factors go into the departure of a flight & it is not always possible to delay for late connecting customers. - We're glad that you made it to DFW. We regret that it was such a difficult day of travel. - Pardon the our late reply. Do you still need help with rebooking your reservation? - We're disappointed to hear you feel this way.
Contrasting those typical replies with those of @JetBlue below, one can see the difference between an airline that claims it’s “friendly” but provides lousy service with one that takes the customer experience seriously:
Thanks for sharing Jeanette! We will make sure to pass along the compliment :) - You bet, Carly. We can't wait to see you again soon. :) - Why not make your suggestion official?: - We hope this means that we'll be seeing you again soon! - Ice cream! - That's what we want to hear. Lean back and enjoy! - We love Fly-Fi photos! Have fun tweeting from the sky :) - Thanks! Stretch out, relax and enjoy the rest of your flight! - Thanks, we'll be sure they see your note! - Please see an crewmember for assistance rebooking your flight. - Good morning! Thanks for the Fly-Fi/Mint note! It would be great if you sent us another tweet from 35K ft! - Very nice, Sarah! Thanks for sharing the pic. :) - Thanks for letting us know, Frankie. We'll be sure to forward your compliment on to leadership. - Awww yeah! We just know you are going to love it. - You bet! #wegotyou - Lean back and enjoy! #tweetsfromthesky - Lean back and s-t-r-e-t-c-h out! - That's awesome! Can't wait to see you again!
Moving along and taking a look at the lodging industry, here are some select @HiltonHotels replies:
We will forward this to our Brand Management, thank you for your feedback.- Hello, thank you for your interest. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Thanks - Hope you enjoy your lunch :) - Glad to hear you enjoyed your stay! Hope to see you again soon :) - Glad you've enjoyed your stay, Peter. Hope to see you again soon :) - This looks delicious Dale, hope it sets you up for a good day! - Congratulations Kirsty! I hope you have a lovely wedding! - We appreciate the inquiry. Unfortunately there is not way that we can arrange a pre-pay to avoid this feel. Thank you. - You made our day with your extra cute submission to #HiltonStory.... Glad we could make yours! - We look forward to seeing you! :) - Glad to hear it! :) - We can't wait to see some pics! :) - We wish you were here too! - Glad we could assist Kathy! :) - Glad you think so :) - Thanks Scott! Enjoy your day.
And here are some from @Marriott hotels (which certainly makes me think there are happier people at Hiltons):
Tyrell, we are sorry to hear this. Please follow & DM us with more information. Thank you! - We apologize for your disappointment. Please let us know if we may assist. - Sorry for the delay, Cecil! Feel free to follow & DM us if we can help with something. - Which hotel? We are happy to share your feedback with them. - Sheila, please follow & DM us with additional details so we may look into this. Thank you! - Which hotel, Dan? We're glad to share your feedback with the property. Thanks! - Hi Steven, we apologize for the frustration. We're sharing the issue with our Marriott app team. Thank you for letting us know! - We're sorry to hear this, Barry! Please follow & DM us with your stay details. Thank you! - We're sorry for your disappointment. We'll share the feedback with the team in Manchester. Thank you! - Hi, will you please follow & DM us with additional details? We'd like to learn more. Thank you. - How exciting! So glad you shared this with us! - We're sorry for the inconvenience. We'll share this with the hotel. Thanks! - Pls send us a DM w/ details along w/ contact info. We want to help & apologize for the poor service.
Then finally, just to show that my recent blog on Uber isn’t off base (as thankfully media outlets are starting to write about how evil a firm it is) here are some selected replies from @Uber proving it’s not living the rosy picture that its proponents say it is:
Ah that's not good! Looking into this and you should get a correct receipt emailed. - Sorry to hear that. Can you write in at http://t.uber.com/support so we can take a look and help out? - He may be driving with another passenger and unable to answer. Leave a message and follow up with us via http://t.uber.com/support - Sorry to hear that Julian. Can you let us know your details at http://t.uber.com/support ? Our team will be happy to help. - Sorry to hear that. Our @Uber_CHI team will be sure to look into it. - sorry to hear about the trouble! Please reach out at http://support.uber.com so we can look into this for you. - Welcome to New York! - Whoa, that doesn't sound right. Everything okay? - Sorry to hear that Joey. Someone form our team will reach out momentarily. / @Uber_SF - That doesn't sound right Brett! Sorry to hear it. If you reply to your receipt we'll be happy to clear things up. - Happy we could connect you to a driver. Uber on! - Oh no! Respond to your receipt and we'll look into what happened asap! - That's not right - please respond to that receipt and we'll take care of that. - This is to compensate for the trip between NJ and NYC, as well as to account for time spent to get back // @Uber_NYC - It may just be a small delay - you can reopen the app to double check and cancel if the trip is still in progress! - That definitely isn't ok - please let us know further details at http://t.uber.com/support and we'll follow up asap. - Sorry to hear about the trouble! Respond to your receipt after the ride and we'll look into this for you.
If you’re interested to know what each of the messages is responding to, you just have to go to twitter replies on an account and click on the message to “view conversation.” You’ll be able to see the praise or rant that led to the company’s response.
Keep in mind that the firm’s CEO is definitely not tweeting these replies. Far from it in fact. (In many cases it is more likely outsourced to teenagers in a third world country.) But the replies – regardless of who sent them – are indicative of what customers are saying to the firm. If they are heaped with praise or buried in complaints one can correctly surmise that there are reasons for both. It makes for some fascinating reading. I do recommend going to Twitter.com and setting up an account for yourself – even if you are not all that interested in Social Media – so you can send your own comments to these firms and add your voice to the barometer. You can also follow JoeSentMe and myself if you’re interested in hearing travel news before everyone else – just click the link and then click “follow.”
Finally, I want to thank you all – the readers of my blogs – for the honor of voting me as one of the Top 10 Business Travel Bloggers. I was stunned to be nominated - as business travel is something I have to do, not my career area of expertise. I’m truly humbled to have squeaked into the final list as number 10. I’m glad that my anecdotes and grumbles showed value to those who voted.
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This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems, develop a future-proof collaboration strategy for internal use, or if you would like his help developing solid, user-focused go-to-market strategies for your collaboration product or service.
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