Last week, a UK based travel company received an interesting Facebook post – a user posted a screenshot of a travel itinerary that listed a layover of 413,786 hours (or roughly 47 years). This, of course, was a technical glitch, as the itinerary did not show the traveler arriving at their destination 47 years later and I’m fairly certain the post was simply to inform the travel company about this technical glitch. The social media team – or one person on that team in particular – chose to acknowledge that post in a rather humorous way…
Of course, this quickly went viral and resulted in a HUGE amount of comments – all of which praised the social media rep for Skyscanner – Jen – for her humorous response. But it didn’t stop there. As the comments piled up from readers/fans, she continued to insert personality and fun into replies which, to any outside observer, certainly seemed to win over just about every commenter and reader. In addition, this witty back-and-forth resulted in wonderful news coverage by organizations such as Mashable and the Huffington Post.
But what made THIS particular technical glitch and social media response so fantastic that it connected with readers, made new fans, attracted potential new customers and also captured the attention of media?
The company showed personality.
As The Huffington Post reported in a statement from Skyscanner regarding the interactions between Jen and their Facebook fans they “never imagined the Facebook discussion between Jen and James would gain this much interest,” but “being able to deal with customers’ questions while building relations with them is key.”
Now, many corporate policies and supervisors may have frowned upon this sort of engagement. If you look at some of the comments, Jen was never rude or sarcastic, but she did step outside-the-box and her responses were humorous, on point and engaged each person. And that is exactly the point of social media…engagement.
Most companies would have responded to a report of a technical glitch in their system in a stoic manner, such as, “Thank you for reporting this technical glitch. We’re sorry if this inconvenienced you in any way. We’re having our technical team correct this issue now and we appreciate both your reporting this to us and your business.” This response would not have been improper, nor would it have been abnormal. In fact, the reason that “Jen” became a viral Internet sensation was exactly because her responses were abnormal. However, they were also spot on and resonated with and connected her company to its customers.
If you need proof, look no further than this one example of many…
There’s nothing wrong with what essentially boils down to making fun of yourself and entertaining your audience. Yes, the company had a technical glitch. Despite the obvious corporate “Thank you” this social media rep took it a whole skyscraper beyond that and engaged each and every one of the commenters. In the end, the company got a ton of exposure simply because Jen took a small technical glitch and used that to engage customers in personal ways that they found humorous. Take this example:
Jen interjects relevant and popular pop culture references into her humor (if you don’t know this is a Game of Thrones reference.)
Or this one:
I’m sure you see the picture.
The point is that consumers aren’t used to companies exhibiting personality and having fun on social media which is exactly why people get so excited when they actually do!
Taco Bell, Audi and other big brands do this regularly. And those results pay off in the form of customer engagement. The reason this was so engaging is that Jen was trusted, empowered and Skyscanner allowed her to express those attributes spontaneously and in a manner than entertained and engaged their audience. And, because of that, they won new fans and I am sure acquired some new customers…all resulting from a travel agency reporting a 47 year layover itinerary to a customer.
It is such a great example of how mistakes can turn into customer relations gold if handled correctly. They can be a great opportunity to show your true personality and just how great you really are at providing an exceptional customer experience.
Author: Sara Callahan
Sara Callahan, Carter West Public Relations Founder & President
Sara Callahan is the Founder and President of Carter West Public Relations, one of the top agencies that specializes in retail automotive public relations.
Born in the United Kingdom, Sara Callahan re-located to the United States over twenty-five years ago and held executive positions in several marketing/communications firms before founding her own agency, Carter West Public Relations, in 1990.
Ms. Callahan’s particular strengths include community and media relations, content development, social media, campaign strategies, trade shows, special events, print and broadcast media placement.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org