Monday, May 18, 2009

How quick, honest and public is your customer service?

Do you fly Southwest Airlines? If so, you are familiar with their boarding procedures. There are no assigned seats, but rather 3 “groups” (A, B and C), and numbers within those groups. The earlier you check in, the better group and number you get.

This was a revolutionary change when Southwest introduced it years ago. They claim it allows them to get planes boarded and in the air quicker. Given their success in avoiding delays, I would say they are right.

But that is old news.

What I saw today on Twitter is what we mean we talk about New Marketing, Social Media, Web 2.0 (or whatever you want to call it) to handle customer service.

Follow this exchange just this morning.

At about 7:00 AM, Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) asked the following question via Twitter:

Dear @southwestair - I don't find the open seating all that useful. Is that going to change eventually?

Shortly after 8:00 AM, Southwest, via its Twitter account, answered with the following:

@chrisbrogan probably not, we tested assigned seats before, and found we can turn the plane quicker with open seating. Sorry!

(Let’s forget for a second that Chris Brogan is a well-known blogger and is very influential, because that point doesn’t fit well in my argument. Agreed?)

In terms of corporate response, this is lightning fast. It is not pandering, patronizing, or condescending. It is not canned or filled with jargon. And most remarkably, it’s public. The entire world can watch this exchange.

If you had been wondering whether Southwest was going to change its seating policy anytime soon, now you know.

Is your communication free to move about the country?