June 30, 2013
Have A Travel Problem? Tweet It Out
It used to be that if you had a travel nightmare you could always tell your friends, write a letter to customer service and, if you were really mad, perhaps share your experience with a travel magazine. In other words, most of the world wouldn’t hear about your woes.
Social media, for good and bad, has changed all that. Social media sites such as Facebook allow people to offer what could border on “too much information,” while Twitter has allowed everyone to share their comings and goings via the micro-blog. Depending on your view of the appropriateness of this, at times this can be amusing and at other times it can be downright annoying.
For those who have had a travel nightmare, it can also get results.
CNN reported this week that travelers on a recent United Airlines international flight were forced to use cocktail napkins as toilet paper. It wasn’t actually that CNN broke this story; we know they have far more important issues to cover, such as what Paula Deen may have said years ago, and where Edward Snowden might exile himself.
No, it wasn’t CNN that broke the story; it was social media. And this is a problem for airlines, hotels, cruise ships and really any business in the service industry.
As the news outlet noted, “In the days before online travel forms and social media, airlines had more control over the process by which customers complained and commented on their services. It usually involved a typed letter sent to corporate headquarters with some distant hope that the company might respond.”
Now the airlines, hotels and other travel-related businesses need to have social media teams to first establish an online presence, but also be in place to address and respond to online complaints and comments.
Airlines, including the aforementioned United, even have Facebook pages. But seriously what company doesn’t have a Facebook page? The issue now is that these comments fall into a central place where people can read them, and join a discussion.
Morgan Johnston, JetBlue’s corporate communications manager and social media strategist, told CNN that responding to customers is key to ensuring that they are happy customers. That is quite a change from years ago when one would write a letter, wait and wait – and likely wait some more – and perhaps eventually get a letter and maybe a coupon.
It also used to be that only preferred customers could expect a satisfactory response. Now with social media that is leveling the playing field just a bit.
So, will social media improve the travel experience?
In a word, no.
Travel hasn’t improved, and while some may remember a golden age of travel that resembles something out of the canceled ABC series Pan Am, it was never that fun in the first. In truth, it hasn’t really gotten worse either. Travel, whether for vacation or business, isn’t exactly fun and never has been. Anyone who said, “Getting there is half the fun,” probably only flew first class or had a private jet.
The fact is that travel isn’t grand and as more people do it the harder it becomes to satisfy everyone. Social media hasn’t actually allowed more people to complain, it has just allowed people to share their complaints where more people see it. Perhaps shared pain is a good thing, and perhaps it will get the businesses to try harder.
Don’t hold your breath however! All it means is that the companies will now have a department to respond to such complaints – and pay for it with higher prices. And that might bring us to another reason to complain on social media. It never ends.
Image Credit: Diego Schtutman / Shutterstock