How Customer Service Helps…And Hurts

Here’s a great little illustration of the power of social media.

So, the creative director, Ron, at the advertising agency where I work had to fly to Calgary last week to meet with some clients. He flew on Air Canada and, sure enough, they lose his luggage.

Now, this is generally a big pain in the ass in any circumstance and all the moreso in this one since his nice clothes are packed away and he doesn’t want to show up to an important client meeting looking like a slob so he had to go out and buy new clothes to make himself presentable.

Anyway, these things happen, right? And a major company like Air Canada will surely work hard to rectifty this unpleasantness as soon as possible, no? Especially, for someone who flies as often as Ron, yes? Well, no.

The bag was lost on January 4th. As of this morning, the bag was still not returned. This, despite Ron making call after call and speaking with “customer service representative” after “customer service representative” and being given assurance after assurance that the bag was on its way. As he tells it, the customer service he received was terrible, consisting of being on hold for hours in total, waiting at home for hours for a delivery that would never arrive and generally being treated incredibly poorly by a company who had screwed up in the first place.

So, Ron goes out and creates a Facebook group called “Air Canada: Please Give Ron Tite His Bag Back”. Ron’s a pretty popular guy, so the group grows quickly, racking up close to 300 members in less than a day.  And the press starts to notice. A major TV network gets ahold of Ron and proposes that they send a camera crew over to do a story on it.

Ron gets Air Canada back on the phone and says (I’m paraphrasing here) “I suggest you take a look at this Facebook group and how many people are learning all about how much you guys suck. Also, if you don’t get my bag to me right away, I suggest you in tune into the news this evening when the whole country will find out just how much you suck.”

Ron got his bag back about 30 minutes later.

The moral of the story is that while customer service has always been integral to building consumer loyalty, it’s become even more critical in the age of social media when a person who receives poor service can instantly shre his frustration with every single person he knows. Air Canada found that out the hard way this week.

The reverse to this is that for all the companies who just don’t get it, there are a handful who get it incredibly well.

Here’s the nice part of this generally frustrating experience for Ron: He gets a call from reception that there’s a suitcase waiting for him up at the front desk. It’s a grey suitcase similar to the one he lost with a note saying “We heard about what happened with Air Canada and wanted to help you out. Here’s some stuff to replace some of the things you may have lost.” And inside, is a bottle of wine, a large box of condoms, a selection of cured meats, some handcuffs and a bunch of other trinkets. I assure you that if you know Ron, this is very funny and a brilliant thing to do.

The bag and its contents were sent by a production company called Traffik that our agency has used on the production side. They saw Ron’s tweets and his Facebook group and took the initiative to go out and do this. I don’t know what they spent on this but I’m assuming it’s a little over $100. But I’m assuming that with this nice gesture, they’ve bought themselves a load of goodwill that goes well beyond the small amount of money and effort they laid out. It was fast, timely, funny and downright nice.

Really brilliant move on their part. Air Canada – and a lot of other companies – would be very wise to learn from the example.


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