Are there Friendly Skies for Social Media?

7 Jun

When you have a child who plays in the Pac-10 conference (Now the Pac12) you find yourself flying all over the west. Last year I became so enamored with Alaska Airlines that I decided that it might make the perfect 3rd act career choice for me. And a particularly incredible airline attendant explained why: She is able to fly from Seattle to Phoenix daily, and still is home on time to have dinner with her kids. Sounds perfect: base myself out of PDX, spend a few years getting the seniority down and then be in a position to be home with kids on weekends/holidays. I have the perfect temperament and service oriented attitude to be an excellent, and even FUN airline attendant. The problem? Airlines all have hiring freezes, and they are not taking new applicants.

So I took my query to my favorite water cooler, Twitter. I started a Twitter campaign that included tweets like:

bethmcshane Excited to fly to PHX tomorrow…of course we’re flying @AlaskaAir ! I heart them, and want to work for them #hireme

bethmcshane: Dear @AlaskaAir ; Have I mentioned that I can play guitar and make clothing out of drapes, ala Sound of Music? #HireMe

 bethmcshane: This #FF please follow ☞ @ElliottP ☜ He is the official tweeter for @AlaskaAir , and he could put in a good word for me ✈. #hireme#AA

 bethmcshane: Dear @AlaskaAir. Hire me. I have excellent survival skills. I can start a fire with pantyhose and a pair of eyeglasses In Case of Emergency.”

After a few days, others jumped on the bandwagon, and before long, there were no less than 40 of my twitter friends tweeting “Hire Her” to Alaska Airlines…I was tweeting 2-3 original #hireme campaigns a day, targeting to Alaska Airlines, with RTs a plenty and lots of fun banter in between. I thought it would at least get me a reply from the Alaska Airlines Twitter account. Two weeks went by. Then Three. Nada. Nothing. My final tweet on the subject was

 bethmcshane: Dear @AlaskaAir. Just one little interview!

….By then there were over 80 tweets directly linked to them, and never a reply.

I looked over at their account and noticed that they only tweeted about 4 times a day. One was informational “Find our Deals on Facebook!” and the rest were tweets that I like to call “fire dousers”… tweets used to manage a negative tweet before it spreads through Twitter like wildfire. An average of 3 tweets a day, 2/3 of which is reactionary, and none of which are engaging.

And then the inevitable happened. I had a negative experience with a flight out of Seattle. They handled the situation badly, and I let them know. Of course, I used Twitter:

  BethMcShane Dear @alaskaair : why did you lie to us and tell us there was no flight available after 9pm from SEA to PDX?

 BethMcShane There is an 11pm flight that @alaskaair connects to PDX from SEA, and we’re just now finding that out… $700 to change now

 BethMcShane @alaskaair : we would’ve gladly purchased the correct ticket 2 weeks ago… And you want to charge us $700 to take up seats that are empty

    BethMcShane @alaskaair soooo not happy with you tight now… And your ppl at the ticket counter are less than helpful

Ah hah there’s the rub: Corey tells us we could fly standby IF we were VIP members @alaskaair. Now those seats will go empty.Nice policy!

Wanna guess how long it took them to get back to me? By the time I left the terminal to grab a shuttle to a SEA hotel, I received the following tweets:

     AlaskaAir @BethMcShane Hi Beth,We ended standby last yr in favor of Same Day Confirmed which eliminates the worry w/standby trvlhttp://bit.ly/mRheKJ

 AlaskaAir@BethMcShane I understand u r frustrated at some of our policies & quite frankly, it sounds like we did a poor job of explaining them to u.

AlaskaAir@BethMcShane Can u plz DM ur flt & contact info so we can get u in touch with Customer Care to formally apologize & correct our comm issue.

Bottom line? Once they had me chatting offline, their tone quickly changed, and they were less apologetic, and much less about customer care. They offered me a $50 credit for my husband and I for our inconvenience, and that was that. They basically just wanted me to be quiet and go away.

It is a shame that a large corporation like Alaska Airlines, with such a stellar reputation for being a locally owned and proud to be a Pacific Northwest Company has such a non-accessible social media perspective. Alaska Airlines has a very weak leg on Twitter which focuses more on being reactionary, instead of leading the rest of the corporate world with an innovative and engaging social media strategy. They could learn a lot from the likes of Bank of America, El Pollo Loco, Comcast or Starwood Hotels….all companies I’ve tweeted to and had immediate and responsive communications with.

Would I still like to work for Alaska Airlines? You bet! But now, instead of an airline attendant, I’d like to help them with their social media department!!

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3 Responses to “Are there Friendly Skies for Social Media?”

  1. Nancy P June 8, 2011 at 2:35 am #

    I hope they read this post! I can’t believe some companies don’t “get” customer service.

    • thyroidinfo June 8, 2011 at 3:04 am #

      It really is a corporate cautionary tale….

  2. derekWwyatt June 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Great illustration of your story. Thanks for sharing!

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