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:
@DeltaAssistTough day, Delta. Was told twice that I couldn't get on an earlier flight because I checked a bag. Gotta be a way to do that.
— Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) July 12, 2012
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:
@plugusin I'm sorry for all the issues, can I check out your confirmation #? Please Follow/DM it to me? Thank you. ^AK
— Delta Assist (@DeltaAssist) July 12, 2012
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?
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