Is YOUR School Constantly Listening?

Delta Airlines ticked me off yesterday, y'all. 

Wanting to get home from a Solution Tree PLC Institute in time to put my beyond-beautiful 3-year old daughter to bed, I got to the San Antonio airport FIVE HOURS before my scheduled departure in hopes of jumping an earlier plane.

I already knew that there were THREE earlier flights to grab, so I figured my chances of getting home for jammie-time were pretty good.  I HAD to be the first person on the standby list for ONE of those flights, right?

Sure enough, a seat was ready for me on an 11:50 plane.  I called my wife to let her know I was on the way home and then went to get my boarding pass from the gate agent. 

That's when EVERYTHING went south. You see, I'd done the unthinkable:  I'd actually checked a bag. 

"Oh I'm sorry, sir.  There's nothing I can do for you," the gate agent explained.  "If you checked a bag for the 4:30 flight, you'll have to take the 4:30 flight."

I pushed back a bit.  I offered to fly without my bag thinking I'd go and pick it up after my little girl fell asleep; I asked if they could get the bag for me so that I could fly on one of the next two connections; and I volunteered to back to the baggage counter to pick it up myself.

"There's no other option, sir.  If only you hadn't checked that bag!" was the reply.

So I blew off a little steam by letting the 6,000 people who follow me in Twitter know that Delta had let me down:



There's the FIRST lesson that school leaders can learn from Delta's miscues:  Your customers — the parents, students, and community leaders that your school serves — ARE talking about you in social media spaces.

Just like Delta's reputation was taking a public hit every time that I dropped a Tweet about their illogical attempt to keep me trapped in the San Antonio airport for hours on end, YOUR school might be taking hits from parents who don't feel heard or students who don't feel valued. 

Social media spaces make it easy for people to share their opinions about the organizations that they care about whether those opinions are flattering or not — and whether you like it or not, people tend to make up their minds based on feedback from their peers.

That means bad experiences and feelings can spread — and hard-won reputations can be ruined — 140 characters at a time.

The good news is that protecting your building against angry dudes with cell phones, axes to grind and Twitter handles is as simple as being willing to listen. 

How do I know?  Because that's EXACTLY what Delta did. 

Take a look at the message they sent back six minutes after I started venting from Seat 25-D:



Six minutes, y'all.  It took SIX MINUTES for Delta to reach out and try to make things right with ME — one customer having a bad experience in the sea of travelers that they cart around every day. 

And while they couldn't get me on an earlier flight — I'd missed all of those before I even started Tweeting — they did something better:  They said they were sorry. Then, they backed me up on a later flight to Raleigh knowing that I might miss my connection through Atlanta. 

In the course of a few simple exchanges, I went from being a guy who was likely to badmouth Delta to everyone I knew for weeks on end to a guy who was bragging about their service to the United frequent flyer who was sitting in the seat next to me watching all of this play out.

There's the second lesson that school leaders can learn from Delta's miscues:  Managing your reputation in today's hyper-connected world starts and ends with a willingness to MONITOR the conversations that customers are having about your brand in social media spaces.

You don't have to respond to messages in six minutes.  Delta probably has a pretty well-paid and well-staffed social media monitoring team working in a nicely appointed office building in Buckhorn.  That makes instant responses a HECK of a lot easier for them than it will ever be for you.  

But you DO have to respond.  

Ignoring conversations means ignoring customers — and ignoring customers is never good for any organization that relies on their reputation.

Any of this make sense?


Related Radical Reads:

Communicating and Connecting with Social Media

Twitter as a Social Media Starting Point

Social Media in Education Resources

11 thoughts on “Is YOUR School Constantly Listening?

  1. Czukoskit

    We can learn much about quality customer service from the missteps of others. Other keys are not repeating those missteps and “making things right” when negative issues arise.

  2. Joan

    Reading this blog just makes me think of what a paradigm shift the digital age has created for schools. We have got to get with it.
    How often do you hear about schools suing students for threatening messages on facebook and students/families countering with 1st Amendment arguments? Perhaps if schools would just listen, in person as well as online, it wouldn’t go so far.

  3. Ariel Sacks

    Awesome post! You definitely made me think about how we manage our online reputations with students and families in a new way. Also the connection between the airport experience and schools was just really cool. Thanks πŸ™‚

  4. Kerri Schweibert

    I totally agree, Bill. In every single business nowadays there is always a “Contact Us” page or a customer service rep waiting only a phone call away to hear your concerns. But in education, we rarely ask our customers (parents, students, community leaders, like you said) what they think. And you’re right–social media could be the perfect vehicle for this to happen.

  5. Bill Ferriter

    Thanks a ton for the NYT article, Janet!
    The ironic thing is the only reason I checked a bag was because Delta had changed my flight, shrinking by original connection from 50 minutes to 27 minutes. Given that I was flying into Atlanta in the thunderstorm addled south, I knew Id be running for my connection no matter what — I figured that would be easier without an extra suitcase to haul!
    I guess from the flight standpoint, thats what bugs me the most. I choose 50+ minute connections on purpose because I dont want to run. When I bought my original ticket, I had the time I needed. Delta made the change, not me. They should have been more flexible than they were.
    Oh well. Hope youre well!
    Be well,
    ; )

  6. Janet Abercrombie

    I’ve had great responses from companies on Twitter. Social media keeps everyone on their proverbial toes – schools included.
    The New York Times has a great article on how to pack with only a carry-on (tips from Silicon Valley folks)
    Most of us frequent travelers do our best to never check in luggage – so we have flexibility to change flights as necessary.
    I’m relatively certain that no airline will allow you to switch flights after a bag has been checked in. It’s one of the post-9/11 rules. Bad things can happen when people are allowed to check in bags and put their bodies on different flights.
    That said, I realize your point had far more to do with schools listening :).
    Janet |

  7. Nesticos

    This is a fantastic post and a point I’ve been trying desperately to convey to my current EdLeadership graduate cohort to little avail. The online discussion posts are of the flavor, “Better to be safe than sorry – stay away from social media.” Really? Needless to say my responses on that discussion have been passionate to the contrary.
    In my classroom, I use a classroom monitoring portal (CMP) using netvibes to monitor every page, blog, wiki, etc, to which my students post, as well as specific hashtags having to do with my students and classes so that I can respond to questions, confusions & criticisms in real time. I’ve tried to encourage our school to do the same in a school/brand monitoring portal (SMP) in an effort to start bridging the school-community gap, again to no avail. I can never seem to get many beyond the “time” factor.
    And, I recently had a similar experience, but not with Delta, with Disney, immediately following ISTE12. After several hours of waiting in lines only for rides to close unexpectedly, with a very disgruntled 8yo, I began tweeting said frustration @DCAToday (the in-park twitter feed for Disney California Adventure). I received a DM within an hour asking me if I could check in at the Chamber of Commerce. I walked out with a handful of open option FastPasses good for up to six people each for rides of our choosing. We pretty much were able to walk-on to many of the remaining rides we hadn’t been able to before. And, since we were only two, we waited outside each ride and found a family of four we could invite along to share our FastPass to pay forward our fortunate circumstance. After a while, my 8yo started having more fun scoping out the tired-looking family of choice to surprise them with a FastPass and his excitement shifted from the ride itself to helping someone else. Big lesson learned there for him… indirectly as the result of those Tweets.
    After reading this, I wish I would have screenshot the tweets to apply them in a similar way as you because it makes such a strong and valid point. But, this is how I learn from you all everyday. Everyone else is listening. Too many schools are still avoiding.
    Great post!

  8. Drwilliam Washington

    I, absolutley, LOVE your original post. The situated example coupled with the concisely articulated concluding paragraph creates a very meaningful and useful argument.
    In my own observations (18+ years teaching), I have arrived at the notion that there are three types of administrators/teachers that will not heed your advice:
    1. Those who think that EVERYTHING sinks to the bottom if “the pot is not stirred.” These people confuse being tolerated with being effective.
    2. Those who believe that ANY/ALL criticisms of their own performance are unfounded, exhaggerated, and unjustified. These people confuse being complacent with being morally mature. They often describe their critisisms as mere misunderstandings.
    3. Those who LACK an understanding of the impact of social networks in today’s world. These people have little experience with social networks and view it as a trend indulged by small groups of technofiles; they do not believe anyone of direct influence will “catch wind” of the critisisms. In other words, they do not think anyone of importance comprises the “circles” that participate in the critical discussions.
    I am well aware of how connected people are, and I’m prepared to make MANY apologies throughout the coming years (LOL!).
    Thank you for takin the time to express these thoughts. You’ve articulated the customer service aspect of the socio-political landscape in education better than I could have. πŸ™‚
    William Washington
    twitter – @drwwashington
    facebook – dr2be

  9. Bill Ferriter

    Dean wrote:
    What schools in particular have a hard time getting over is that they
    think that theyll open themselves up to criticism. Which they will. But
    the truth is, its already happening, they just arent responding.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    This is a really good point, Dean. Schools that engage in social media spaces arent opening themselves to criticism. Theyre ALREADY being criticized. All their doing is creating a public, transparent avenue for responding to those criticisms in a much more productive way.
    Hope youre well,

  10. Shareski

    Makes perfect sense. I’ve had similar experiences with Delta and have blogged about customer service and twitter on a number of occasions.
    What your lesson and my experience teach me is that by simply listening and responding, they usually win me over. Twitter has become a place for organizations to become personal. That’s why it bothers me when schools or businesses set up accounts and only use them to broadcast rather than converse.
    I’m guessing had you tweeted earlier, they would have resolved your issue but as you say, the apology and acknowledgement was a big deal. What schools in particular have a hard time getting over is that they think that they’ll open themselves up to criticism. Which they will. But the truth is, it’s already happening, they just aren’t responding.

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