Etihad 777 flight

It started off as a fairly ordinary day.

On Wednesday, three of my colleagues and I were waiting at the Richmond International Airport to board our 8:45 a.m., non-stop Delta Airlines flight from Richmond, Va. to Minneapolis, Minn.

The flight was delayed.

Around 10:30 a.m., we received word that our flight would be leaving around 11:30 a.m. – maybe. We were told that the delay was mechanical, and the Richmond mechanics couldn’t do anything until they consulted with the plane’s manufacturer, Bombardier, in Canada. Bombardier wasn’t returning calls.

So we waited. And waited. And waited.

With time on my hands, I decided to test the responsiveness of Delta’s social media team. I had no expectations that Delta would be able to resolve our flight delay via Twitter, but I was curious to see how Delta would respond.

At 10:45 a.m., I tweeted:

Tweet 1 v2




Minutes later, I received the following tweet back from RB at @DeltaAssist:

Delta Tweet2




As the morning turned into afternoon, our 8:45 a.m. flight continued to be delayed, and I continued a direct message Twitter conversation with RB. All the while, he was apologetic and provided as much information as possible. Eventually, our 8:45 a.m. flight left at 1:30 p.m.

In the end, Delta offered me a $75 flight voucher for my inconvenience, making a bad situation a little bit better.

Based on my interaction with @DeltaAssist and industry best practices, here are five tips for using social media for customer service:

  • Be responsive. RB at @DeltaAssist responded within minutes of me tweeting about our flight delay, and there is value in responding quickly. Research for The Social Habit (conducted by Edison Research) found that 32 percent of consumers who have attempted to contact a brand, product or company through social media for customer support expect a response within 30 minutes; 42 percent expect a response within 60 minutes.
  • Show empathy. Increasingly consumers are reaching out to brands via social media. Quite often, consumers are reaching out to brands because they have a complaint or issue. Make sure that your social media team is showing empathy for customers. RB started his first tweet back to me with “Sorry to hear,” referring to the flight delay. He then offered to check my itinerary for updates.
  • Move the conversation out of the public eye. Not all issues can be resolved publicly on social media. RB sought to take our conversation out of public view via Twitter’s direct messaging function. This allowed me to provide pertinent information, including my flight confirmation number and email address for further discussions.
  • Always remember you represent the brand. Time and time again, we’ve seen brands make social media gaffs in efforts to be witty and flippant, only to have to apologize after the fact. Always remember that you represent the brand, particularly when providing customer service via social media. Keep in mind what your brand stands for, what your key messages are and what your company’s purpose is. Your interaction with that disgruntled customer could shape  his or her perception about your brand for years to come – good or bad.
  • Focus on resolution. In the end, @DeltaAssist couldn’t make our flight leave any faster, but RB did provide me with a $75 voucher for a future flight. His final tweet to me said, “I promise we’ll do better next time.”

Air travel isn’t always easy. And unfortunately, excessive flight delays now come with the territory . While nothing can replace my lost time at the airport, I appreciate Delta’s social media responsiveness. Well done RB and @DeltaAssist. Well done.