Customer Service in the state of "Now"

My friend Jeff Pulver just recently pulled off one of the most incredible conferences on what he calls the “State of Now”. (I was honored to work with him behind the scenes!) The 140 Characters Conference was not a simple event on how to use Twitter. Au contraire, my tweet friend.

It was a vast cultural expansion into how the state of now is changing the entire world. If we have learned one thing about Twitter, Facebook, Apple, YouTube, Google and Amazon, they have been changing the future of how we do things, faster, more efficiently and with a wider reach than we all imagined. Just look at #IranElection on Twitter. How Michael Jackson’s death brought Twitter down. How TMZ made it news before CNN. How the U.S. State Department asked Twitter not to schedule a routine software update so the world could get updates from Iran. We learned about Honduras from those on the ground. Through YouTube we all watched in sadness as Neda took her last breath after being shot. We saw Janis Krums on a passing ferry on the Hudson take the first picture of the downed airliner on his iPhone, put it on Twitter and instantly became a photojournalist. Whether he liked it or not.

There is also a very complex “other side” to the state of now. What if something goes horribly wrong? What if you are a major brand and you make a mistake? Could the state of now make you into an overnight sensation – albeit in the most unpopular and disastrous way? Could you lose market share, customers and face?

I recently wrote a post on “How to take a hit on your personal/company brand and come out on top” which explored how businesses can go from a flop to on top if they simply choose to contribute to the conversation. There are tons of examples of these cases and when you have personal instances that you can write about and share, I think it makes the impact of the situation that much more real.

Now some say we cannot all be “a Zappos”, but maybe we could just try? Zappos is famous for having outstanding customer service because they live, eat and breathe it. Each person who works at their company has a Twitter account and is trusted to do the right thing. Zappos has been asked by everyone from airlines to the IRS to train their staffs. They are that good.

I believe Zappos still has customer situations that are not always flawless, because they are human, but I believe it is not as transparent as other companies just because they have proven they can turn it into a win almost every time. If your entire company has it ingrained in them to do the right thing like Zappos, and a customer situation goes not so well, your customers are aware of your company culture and they will know that you will do the right thing and take care of it. Zappos is a perfect example of customer service in the state of now.

Here is one not so happy case. A singer/musician who had his guitar thrown around by baggage handlers at United Airlines chose to write a song about the experience after no one would help him. Instead of a complaint letter, his band “Sons of Maxwell” made this music video aimed at United when one of their guitars was destroyed.

In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say no to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United: Song 1 is the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written and video production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I promise.”

I leave you with the actual video here, viewed 473,552 times already. How would you handle a similar issue if it happened to you? What does your company do to ensure things like this happen less or happen at all? What do you think United should do about it?

  • Yossi

    Great post. TNX

  • Yossi

    Great post. TNX