|Image courtesy of Barbara Wilford Art and Photography|
In Tuesday's post, I gave kudos to the American Airlines SoMe Team, but I said that I wouldn't hold my breath for a response back from them (via email) when I probed for further details on what they sent me.
While I'm glad I didn't hold my breath, I was pleased yesterday morning to see that I did receive a response from them. It only took a week. Now I wish I had asked more and more-detailed questions! Did I get the answers I was looking for? Would I have gotten more details had I asked more questions? Read on to see what I found out.
Remember, these questions are in response to the details they provided (the second image in my previous post), so my first question follows on from there. I've injected my thoughts and comments in between, in red.
AA: Thanks for the additional questions. We checked with the SMEs and are happy to provide more information highlighted below.
I think I asked some fair, high-level questions that, honestly, anyone in the organization should be able to answer. The SoMe Team went to their subject-matter experts. When it comes to a customer-centric culture and the customer experience, shouldn't all employees be "subject-matter experts?" Huge lesson here. Executives, go walk the halls and ask your employees (including other members of the executive team) some of these questions. If your employees aren't talking about customer experience improvements being made, what your core values are, or how you/they are delivering an awesome experience every day, you're failing. So are your internal messaging and communications.
Me: Would you mind if I share these items on my blog?
AA: Please feel free to share, along with the below info.
I jumped the gun. I couldn't wait any longer.
Me: Are you able to share any specific details around customer service improvements (other than the new technology)? Are there new approaches to recruiting or training agents or flight staff?
AA: We continually work to identify and select candidates that possess the values and customer service experience that align with the goals and values of the new American. As an example of this, we’re welcoming new flight attendants to help bring a fresh energy to our skilled team.
My first thought is, "What are their values?" (See my next question.) My next thought is, "What is a fresh, new energy?" If that means nice people, i.e., hiring for attitude, great. If that's fresh, new, negative energy, we're in trouble. No mention of training or other things that will help employees deliver a better experience.
Me: Are there core values that American employees live and breathe? Would you be willing to share those?
AA: Simply put, the new American puts the customer at the center of everything we do. We aim to consistently deliver the predictable and empower our people to remedy the unpredictable to provide an experience our customers can trust and rely on. Through the fusion of technology and the human touch of our people, we aim to elevate and modernize the travel experience so our customers feel at ease and connected.
On the surface, it sounds wonderful. But. I feel like this statement is more the brand story they gave to their designer so he could personify the brand in his logo.
I wouldn't exactly call that their values; I had to go to their site to find those: "American Airlines core values include integrity, compliance with the law, and respect for the individual and the unique customs and cultures in communities where we operate." Meh. I'm thinking Zappos, and I got Payless. No offense, Payless. (And good lord, I hope they comply with the law. Is that really a core value?)
Me: Did you use customer feedback, or better asked... are any of the above changes as a direct result of customer feedback? I know American has a robust VOC program.
We regularly rely on customer feedback to help us improve. We collect this through online surveys, customer focus groups, customer correspondence, social media and feedback from our frontline employees. As a global airline, we understand and appreciate the diverse needs of our customers and we work hard to continuously listen to how those needs evolve over time. Over the past several years, American Airlines has developed and launched a variety of services and products based on customer feedback. Some of these initiatives have included:
- AA.com\Rainbow - Offering information on LGBT events, news and travel options (now also in Spanish and Portuguese)
- BlackAtlas.com - An interactive digital community for individuals interested in learning more about the Black travel experience
- Aprendi.com - A Spanish language user-content driven digital community designed to serve as a platform for sharing travel experiences
- Baggage Delivery Service to provide our customers with yet another choice to help make their journey as convenient as possible
Again, I give the SoMe Team a high-five for working with me on this. I give their SMEs an F for failing to answer the questions.
At least they responded, which is more than I can say for Customer Service over at United.When I wrote about the faux pas that United made with their employee recognition program, I forwarded the post to United in an email (after I tweeted it, with no response from their SoMe Team). One month later, I got a lame, generic response that was really a non-response. It started off with: "I apologize for our delay in responding. We’re experiencing a higher volume of e-mail than normal and we’re working on responding as quickly as possible." Then they directed me to submit my questions through the FAQ page of the very same lame program I had written about. Wow. I waited 30 days for them to tell me to resubmit my questions?!
But I digress...
Back to American Airlines.
I wrapped up my email of questions to the American Airlines SoMe Team with the following statement:
"Would love any details that I could share with my readers. If I call you out in my blog, I certainly want to give you a chance to share with readers the people-oriented (both customer and employee experiences) improvements. I have the eyes and ears of customer experience thought leaders, and I know we'd all like to know that American is working to move out of that last-place spot in the rankings. We're cheering for you!"
I invite you to leave a comment below and let me know what you think of American's response, the rebrand, their service in general, etc. Do you feel any better about their rebranding efforts? I like what Michele Price said in her comment to Tuesday's blog post: "If they are making improvements, wouldn't they want it said in public for applause to ensue?" Amen to that.
By the way, I think they need some new subject-matter experts.