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Social Business Is People to People Business – The Iberia Story

2009/02/21 EC-JCYAs you may have seen it already, once again, I am on the move. This time around to Zurich, Switzerland, to go and present at the Joint Alumni Conference – JAC 2012 event, perhaps on what may well be one of the most important and relevant speeches I may be delivering to date, around the topic of “The Future of Work in the Age of Social Business“, which is turning out to be one of my favourite topics to talk about at the moment, for that matter. Over the last few weeks I have been working on the dissertation itself for this particular event and time and time again I have been thinking about different ways of how I would introduce the topic to such a rather selected audience. Who would have told me then though that, despite all of the various different iterations I have been working on so far, I would be going eventually for the one I fully experienced during the course of today, on my way there, as perhaps one of the most powerful introductions on Social Business I have done to any presentation I may have delivered so far in the last few months. As part of the series of “Social Business Is People to People Business“, here’s the next take of what living social is all about. This time around with an unexpected surprise: Iberia.

The future of work is social. I haven’t got a doubt about it. And, after today, even more so. The future of work is going to be exciting, too! It’s going to help knowledge workers become more empowered, more autonomous, more trustworthy, more motivated and engaged, more open and transparent than ever before carrying out important, meaningful and purposeful knowledge work. Work that they care for, work for which they have built certain attitude to do it just right, in short, work that aims at perhaps the panacea of what doing business nowadays should be all about: delighting your customers. 

After today’s experience, which I will start detailing shortly, I am 100% convinced that we are not going to have it any other way. On the contrary, we, customers in general, are going to start aiming higher and higher at what excellent customer service should be all about. And we are perhaps going to start demanding it more and more as well! And rightly so, to be honest. It’d be about time, too!, don’t you think? Here is why … Here is another story as to why the future of work is social. 

If you have been following this blog, and my various social networking interactions over the course of time, you may well remember how I get to travel quite a bit for work and throughout all of those years I have been on the road, or up in the air, I keep having a good number of unpleasant experiences, in general, to the point where I have learned to develop lots of extra patience, resilience and perseverance in order to learn to live with it and move on. Well, today it was different. Totally different. Today, for the first time, in a long while, I have been having one of the most gratifying customer experiences I can remember as a road / air warrior. And all of that with what it is turning out to be one of my favourite airlines out there: Iberia

As I keep writing this article further along, I am sure most of you folks out there would be thinking that I am crazy, right? I mean, Iberia? Really? Iberia is your favourite airline nowadays? Are you really sure? Well, yes! And here’s the reason why… excellent customer service through a rather unexpected channel: Twitter.

Indeed, like I was saying, earlier on today, I was supposed to take a plane from Madrid to Zurich arriving about early afternoon to then get everything ready for tomorrow’s presentation at JAC 2012. Everything was going according to plan. No delays, no additional, last minute problems. Just everything perfect. For a change. So we get on the plane, take off and about one hour later, approximately, the captain tells us that the two systems that regulate the cabin pressure of the plane both broke and we needed to lower our altitude to the point where eventually we needed to divert our course and head to our nearest airport, which, at the time, was Barcelona. The tone of the message was rather reassuring and calm, so everyone did just that: remain calm. And perhaps a bit defeated that once again something did eventually happen, although without further consequences. Something for which I am very grateful altogether on its own!

So there they went, all of our intentions to arrive on time In Zurich on another uneventful trip. We got off at Barcelona airport and this is where the story begins and where it’s changed completely my view of the airline itself. When we all arrived to the airport all of the passengers headed to the Transfer Desk to see what was happening and to find out plenty more details as to whether we would be able to fly again that evening or in the early morning. I didn’t. I decided to remain, lag behind and instead get my iPhone up and running and go into Twitter. After all, I was supposed to meet up a group of colleagues to catch up and needed to tell them I was going to be running late and perhaps not make it altogether, if we were going to leave the next morning. So I told everyone what happened, about the incident, about how everyone was all right, about how we all remained calm (Despite the good amount of recent events that have been reported in the press that I am sure we are all far too familiar with for multiple other airlines) and how we were all waiting for things to happen… 

At that point, it occurred to me that I could query @Iberia and see if they would know what was actually happening. What was the failure about, how long we would need to wait for something to happen and whether we would be leaving for Zurich eventually, after all. And lo and behold within a few minutes I got a lovely response back from the @Iberia folks confirming the problem, how they found out from their colleagues they were sending another plane from Madrid to Barcelona and how about one hour later we would be taking that one from BCN to our final destination and how everything was going back to normal. And there I was, from feeling a bit uncomfortable, tense, perhaps a tad too nervous about what was happening, waiting for more news to come through, I got all I needed: the right information to reassure me (us all, in the end) we were being taken good care of

From there onwards, I no longer felt that I needed to go to the Transfer Desk to inquire any longer. Word started spreading pretty quick and before we all knew it we were all enjoying a refreshment waiting for the next flight to arrive. And it surely did! 35 minutes ahead of the scheduled time we were told! Once again, that distress, uncomfortable situation of not knowing what was happening, which is usually the feeling one has when travelling, was transformed into excellent customer service and all of that thanks though a delightful exchange of tweets, not just with the folks behind @Iberia, but also a couple of other folks (Aviation enthusiasts for that matter, who were tuning in on how the plane got diverted for no apparent reason), and also my own social network(s) who all kept me entertaining sharing glimpses of what was happening to them while they interacted with me to confirm whether I was ok and being taken care of, which I was. 

Yes, I can imagine! I am sure you may all be thinking this success story is an easy one. I mean, so easy to keep your customers informed about what’s happening, right? Specially, while they are on the move… Well, the thing is that it’s not happening as often as it should! Like I have mentioned above, I travel quite a bit throughout the whole year and this was the first time any airline tuned in on to their social channels (Twitter, in this case), to go the extra mile and help their customers get comfort after a rather interesting incident which turned itself into just another anecdote, which is essentially what happened after we got the information we needed. Now, imagine this whole scenario without having social technologies helping out. Imagine the chaos of several dozens of people piling up, complaining about their own rights, about having good information on what’s happening, about their vouches for refreshments while the wait ensured, etc. etc. Yes, I am sure it’s not hard to imagine. It would have been a complete chaos. Mayhem unleashed. And yet, a couple of exchanges with @Iberia through Twitter and we are all good. Yes, just that, 2 or 3 exchanges in Twitter and we are back in business!

Needless to say that this success story, just like it did for Movistar a little while ago and that I have blogged about over here, can only mean something, something that we all seem to take for granted, but that, time and time again, it’s incredibly difficult to gain and enjoy for much longer nowadays as we have all become rather disenchanted: customer loyalty and employee engagement. Because you know, happy and engaged employees surely help cultivate happy customers. Each and every time.

Indeed, thanks to that helpful exchange on Twitter, one gets to comprehend how the future of work is social, how Social Business is all about people to people business and how customers don’t interact with brands to get their problems addressed and fixed and their needs met. Customers talk to people, people who take ownership of their customers’ problems and whom, within a matter of minutes, ensure that problem has been taken care of and a proper resolution is on the way, depending on the context, obviously. Essentially, no matter what people out there may well say, that’s what customers care about. Perhaps not so much about engaging with those brands per se, but more talk to people to have their problems solved, so that they can move on. And since that’s just what has happened to me that can only mean one thing: my new favourite airline out there to do business with is … @Iberia. Just another business that has embarked already on that fascinating journey to become a successful socially integrated enterprise.

In short, another business that, finally, shows and demonstrates fully, by walking the talk with these social technologies, how to care about their own customers: From people to people solving their problems by making them their own, while finding a solution in a timely manner. That, folks, is what a Social Business is all about! And, I do realise that this may well be just an isolated occurrence, so we will have to wait and see about that! But, for now, once again, Iberia is showing everyone the way… It’s now up to us to follow suit.

[ I already have, by the way. They just landed themselves a new, happy AND loyal customer :-D ]

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Social Business Is People to People Business – The Movistar Story

Movistar en parque olímpico de BarcelonaIn the past you may remember how time and time again I have mentioned how one of the main use cases from a successful Social Business would eventually be that one of customer service and customer support, although over the course of time you may have noticed how my experiences have been very lacking in this regard. So, instead of giving up on it altogether a long while ago I decided to keep pushing for it, because I knew it that at some point it would click and that would be the day where we may be witnessing that tipping point for that use case to become a reality. Well, I think that day has arrived. Today. And that company that has finally understood what a social business is all about is one that I never expected that it would be coming around, as seen on this blog a few times already. That social business with a success story on providing excellent customer service and support is Movistar. Yes, you are reading it right. Movistar!

I have always been saying that the day both telcos and airlines, along with government, amongst a couple of others, start embracing social networking for business that may well be the day where we can consider it a historic moment. A day of no return. A day that will mark a before and an after difficult to back out from. And while we are waiting for airlines and governments to make that jump, it looks like telcos, at least, one of the largest ones out there at the moment, Movistar, has just made that jump. At least, again, with yours truly, because after years of trying and persevering, it looks like things are paying off. At long last!!

See? It’s all about personal experiences, it’s about putting your customers right at the centre, it’s about understanding how that customer centric approach is going to make you much more successful and profitable at large. It’s about understanding how as important and paramount as corporate brands are (Specially, in the context of B2B), it’s actually people the ones who make business. So if your business is starting to make that transition into becoming a social business you may need to start changing, or adapting, the traditional B2B and B2C perspectives into what some of us have been saying all along is the one that will function as the main core engine of how business gets done nowadays: P2P. People to People

Indeed, that’s just what’s happened to me in the last few hours and as much as I have been blogging, and on a regular basis, every time that customer support and customer service are lacking for whatever business that claims to be a social business, I am also determined to share the success stories from those same social businesses whenever they come to deliver and, specially, if it has happened in a big way! So the following blog post is a story of what customer service and customer support should be all about in the world of digital and social networking for business in general…

It all started with yours truly being embarked on his last business trip for the summer, to Madrid, then to Seville, to participate on a couple of internal workshops on living social (in Madrid itself) and a summer course at the University of Pablo de Olavide, in Carmona, Seville, on the topic of “La Empresa y la Administración Pública en la Era de las Redes Sociales“. While on the first leg of the business trip, I decided to give it a go, once more, and see if I could finally get my problem fixed with my 3G USB Novatel MC996D modem, provided by my current employer, since it was driving me a bit crazy that I have been having it working for a good couple of years, but in the last few days it stopped working, all of a sudden, and since I’m on the road on a regular basis it was starting to cripple my ability to remain productive while on the move. So I tweeted this, after another couple of tweets of being ignored, but that I cannot longer find since Twitter ate them up, as usual, thanks to its wonderfully, and utterly useless search engine: 

 

Notice how I already knew where to direct that tweet, since I have been trying multiple times in the past to receive some other customer support, but to no avail. This time around though, since it is a company issued 3G USB modem I was re-directed to @movistarpro_es as a focused group working on these issues for knowledge workers. And, once again, I was ignored… I didn’t receive a single response from that corporate brand handle and I was eventually back again to square one. Or so I thought…, because, shortly after, I bumped into this particular tweet from Manuel Richter:

 

Which may have alerted then Emilio Rodríguez (Movistar’s external Community Manager) at the same time, for that matter. Because, shortly after that tweet I got this other one from Emilio himself: 


So we got together, followed each other and we embarked on a rather interesting and fascinating DM exchange, which I am going to keep just that, private, to respect Emilio and our interactions as such. I guess I could ask him to make the exchange public, but I don’t think it would be necessary, since, you know, some things in life should remain just that: private.

The great news is that, after I mentioned to him how I needed to aim for a speedy fix for the problem, since I would be needing the 3G USB modem connection tomorrow in Carmona, Seville, he passed on all of the details to the folks from Movistar’s technical support and a couple of hours later, while I was having dinner, on a Saturday evening (Important to note this as well!), I got a phone call from one of his colleagues who wanted to figure out what was happening and what the problem may well be and how we could fix it. So we spent about one hour trying to do some extended problem determination and having worked myself over 4 years in technical customer service I do know and fully appreciate the extended patience, understanding and perseverance from Emilio’s colleague to help out. Alas, we couldn’t solve the problem, for whatever the reason. And he mentioned he would note down the reference number and have someone call me in the morning to confirm whether it was a problem with the modem or the phone card itself. I confirmed with him to get a call at around 10:00 am and lo and behold, right on time, I got that phone call. 

And this time around, another technical support representative, José, as his first name, spent another 45 minutes doing some extensive problem determination for the second time, following up further on where his colleague left it the night before, and, finally, after having him confirmed with me how the 3G USB modem I am using is *not*  compatible with Mac OS X (v. 10.7.2 and above – I am using v 10.7.4), not sure just yet what happened but he managed to make it connect to the Internet and ever since I have been a happy camper, once more! 

Now, I know that at this point in time I may need to have the modem replaced, if I would want to have full support from Movistar, if I run into problems again, but this time around José’s dedication, patience, wit and smarts, resilience and politeness got me going, and really happy, because not only did he help me get connected, he also confirmed with his support and phone calls how online customer service and customer support, that is, Manuel’s and Emilio’s efforts paid off and big time! 

Indeed, they did plenty of active listening out there on the social streams, they reached out, they engaged in a very professional and polite manner (Just like we are all entitled to, even if it were through the phone!) trying to understand what the problem was and how we could fix it. They provided extended value and additional feedback connecting the dots with the right folks from technical support and instead of having to go through the lifeless corporate brand, here I was interacting people to people with those folks who could help me and who eventually did successfully. Absolutely brilliant!

I do fully realise that this is just one single instance on excellence and brilliant customer support, from beginning to end, from active listening, to eventually address the problem, take ownership of it from me, and do their outmost to fix it, which they did eventually! But I am hopeful it won’t be the last one. People are people. And once you do business with them as people that’s all what remains. As a result, of course, though the corporate brand benefits, but I can honestly tell you that right now, Movistar is very lucky to have folks like Emilio, José and extended their contacts, because they came along big time proving it’s possible to make that shift from Business to Business into People to People. 

And that’s just the beginning of becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise. The dream come true for any other business out there who may have embarked on this journey of embracing Social Business. Movistar is just one giant leap closer to it and I am, for once, very excited to share out there with the world something I never thought I would say: I’m a happy customer of Movistar

(And that will show even more next time I drop by the Movistar local shop to upgrade my paid services with them)

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