The rise of social media and the growing urgency of transparency made it inevitable for Delta Air Lines to create its own customer service Twitter handle, according to Allison Ausband, the vice president of reservation sales and customer care, who spoke at last week’s Realtime NY 11 conference. “We didn’t have an option but to jump in and participate,” Ausband said.
@DeltaAssist was a means to tap into the real-time conversations already happening on Twitter, and thus a way to craft real-time responses. Stuck in a bathroom without toilet paper? Had a flight inexplicably canceled? A tweet to @DeltaAssist would be there to get your problem solved, Ausband said.
The Twitter handle was launched in May 2010 with four customer service representatives and would eventually grow to 12 full-time dedicated agents, boasting more than 60,000 response tweets.
So how exactly did Ausband build @DeltaAssist to where it is today?
- Empower the employees with information. Customer service agents were given the highest level of authority to handle customer concerns and questions. The power to handle any request meant that agents could be the first — and last — point of contact for customers. No one wants to be stuck in an endless automated phone loop.
- Connect offline with online. Delta trained all of its employees with an emphasis on “Twitter Watch.” It was the idea that any time a Twitter agent saw a chance for an airport employee to help out, they would. Responding to offline issues — such as an unmanned desk in an airport — by using Twitter made Delta more accountable to their customers both online and in real life.
- Recognize that social media is not just for marketing. Delta Air Lines created a social media lab where the marketing and customer service teams could work in proximity. The relationship between marketing and customer service is evolving: It’s no longer just about getting the brand’s name out there; it’s about creating a strong relationship between the brand and the customer.
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