Something very common happened recently on U.S. Airways Flight #544 from Vancouver to Phoenix. But what happened afterwards is something truly noteworthy. I left my very beloved iPad at seat 15A. Besides the iPad being a gadget many people would love to get their hands on, mine also contained sensitive information. That is when I went from a customer to a customer that needed service.
In a state of panic and with a tinge of hope, I sent this tweet:
Reaching out to US Airways on Twitter might, just might, get me my iPad back. Afterall, as a loyal Southwest Airlines customer and follower, I’ve seen customer service in action via Twitter. In fact, @SouthwestAir was actively assisting their customers throughout the day on that Sunday, while @USAirways had not sent a tweet in four days and hadn’t responded to a customer-service oriented tweet in five days.
What happened next was less expected. Hundreds of people started responding to my virtual distress signal. People were sending me phone numbers to US Airways and to airports customer service departments and giving me advice on how to get it back. Kind friends from Dallas (where the plane was headed next) volunteered to drive to the airport to retrieve my iPad. While dozens of others reached out to the @USAirways account on my behalf.
In the middle of this outpouring of generosity, came one tweet-in-shining armor under the handle: @This_JustIn_. And this Justin saved the day. A couple phone calls on my behalf and the news came in: my iPad would be riding with the captain back home to PHX where we would be happily (and gratefully) reunited.
There are many lessons to take from this story. For one, don’t leave your unlocked iPad on a plane. (It’s now password protected, by the way.) But one of the most valuable is the power of humans helping humans. There are huge opportunities (thanks to powerful communication tools such as Twitter and Facebook) for ‘titans of industry’ such as US Airways to humanize their brand. Imagine if @USAirways was listening-around-the-clock (since they do fly-around-the-clock) instead of only “listening during regular business hours” (as their bio line says). They not only had the opportunity to give amazing customer service but to do it in front of hundreds of people who were actively listening. People were literally rooting for them to succeed!
And the kicker? It was such an easy win for @USAirways. Why? For one, they had a Captain flying the plane who cared enough about his passengers to temporarily take custody of my iPad and return it to me personally at the Phoenix airport.
So where did they go wrong? They weren’t listening. It is no longer up to the brand where or how they want their customers to communicate. Imagine if US Airways decided they didn’t want to use the phone as a communication device and stopped answering the phone for five days.