On Monday, December 27th, the East Coast was paralyzed by the after effects of the 'Blizzard of 2010'?. Power was out, roads weren't paved and airline travel was at a standstill. Everyone was scrambling to rearrange their schedules in order to get home or back to work from Christmas. A family member who works in the travel industry was trying all day to reach JetBlue to help with a client's cancelled flight. The phone lines were so overloaded that even calling the 1-800 number, he wasn't allowed to be placed on hold. He decided to place a 'Help!'? message on the JetBlue Facebook wall, along with his number, just to see what would happen. To his surprise, he received a call from a JetBlue employee in response to his post. He was able to rebook his client and make someone's holiday season a little brighter.
Not long ago, I was having issues with my Hotmail account. For those of you who have also experienced issues with Hotmail, you know that it is not easy to find a customer service phone number anywhere on the MSN site. After being put through the voicemail system for about 20 minutes without the benefit of speaking with a live person, I decided to follow Windows Live on Twitter and sent a direct tweet with a very high level (140 characters) overview of my issue. It may have taken them some time to respond, but I did hear back with instructions on how to access my account. As frustrated as I had been, I was relieved to know that I had been heard.
Is this the future of social media? Today, most companies have a Facebook page and/or a Twitter account in conjunction with their corporate website. Facebook and Twitter allow brands to have a more real-time, one-to-one conversation with their customers. With the increasing demand for answers, companies are going to need to ensure that they have the proper staff in place in order to respond to a consumer's question, complaint, issue, etc. in a timely fashion. If not, the negative response by consumers will spread rapidly on the social networks. I'm interested to see how brands continue to evolve their social media platforms into customer service vehicles in 2011. I know from past experience, it is now the first place I'll go to get answers.