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Are They Happy or Unhappy?

I’ll never forget the time I [Matt] was traveling to Las Vegas to speak at a trade show. It was a long flight, but when we landed and the plane was taxiing to the gate, I simply tweeted “Viva Las Vegas” and was almost instantly greeted with a return tweet for a hotel/casino special. Someone was actually watching for conversation about the city, not just me, to send a special offer.

Watching or monitoring social media for customer issues is still a growing trend. It provides the ability to respond to issues in a timely fashion as well as gives opportunities for additional business opportunities.

Consumers are using Twitter to either ask questions about product- and service-related issues or to air complaints with increasing regularity. A study by Sprout Social found that social media messages eliciting a direct response from companies had risen by 178% from 2012 to 2013 2. To stay competitive, companies are choosing to watch for negative terms or concepts being used around a brand and head off a potential customer satisfaction problem later.

By listening to customer feedback in Twitter, companies like JetBlue have been able to build their reputation as responsive customer service organizations. Think about this from the consumers’ perspective. Airline delays can be one of the most common causes of customer frustration. Not only do these delays happen often, but those being delayed or inconvenienced can be pretty vocal about their feelings, especially when there is nothing to do but sit in an airline terminal with their smart phones.

Acknowledging this fact, @JetBlue ensures the company is responsive to its customers because it understands the importance of continued customer loyalty. JetBlue not only engages with happy customers but also responds to and helps frustrated customers as quickly as possible.

According to an article in AdWeek 3, due to a downpouring of rain in the Northeast that grounded most of JetBlue’s planes, the company was facing a public relations storm that seemed unlikely to go away anytime soon. On this particular occasion, passengers were trapped in their planes (on the tarmac) in New York City for hours—going nowhere and growing more annoyed by the minute. In many cases, passenger delays stretched into days while over 1,000 flights were ultimately canceled.

Needless to say, customer concerns and outcries ran rampant. However, through social media channels, then-CEO David Neeleman reached out to travelers of JetBlue to personally apologize for the issues and presented the company’s plans to improve service. The use of social media outlets to enable an open atmosphere of communication coupled with the company’s willing to admit (publically) its mistakes went a long way to turn a bad situation good.

The lesson?

Listening to the right content (in some cases, customer dissatisfaction) can provide an added vehicle to achieving customer loyalty and goodwill.

JetBlue leveraged YouTube (a popular video-sharing site) to explain the service failure and describe how it planned to improve its operations as a part of its effort to control the situation. Again, it did this by posting an apology by founder and then-CEO David Neeleman shortly after the trouble began. As a result, the company built a relationship with its customers.

This use of a social media source coupled with JetBlue’s complete openness and willingness to take responsibility helped to push it over the media reports and resume its standing as a consumer favorite. What’s important is that despite the negative news coverage and complaints by consumer advocacy groups, the airline was able to keep its place atop the J.D. Power North America Airline Satisfaction Study for low-cost carriers going on 11 years in a row 4!

So when we think about who we want to listen to, the answer, of course, is everybody. But by segmenting the comments into those with positive sentiments and those with negative sentiments, we can quickly respond to those urgent customer issues.

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