A funny thing happened on the way to Nashville - Warm Thoughts Communications
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A funny thing happened on the way to Nashville

Posted on May 2, 2016

Waiting at the gate for my United flight to Nashville for the NPGA conference, I suddenly heard my name called over the loudspeaker.

“Susan Janett. Would Susan Janett please come to the counter.” My first thought was, “This can’t be good.” And it wasn’t.

I was scheduled to arrive in Nashville at 10 am, plenty of time to get to the convention center where I was scheduled to lead the workshop on social media for the NPGA Southeast Convention. I had been working on the presentation for days, hoping to reward the audience with a much better understanding of the growing importance and power of social media. Little did I realize that I would become the lesson.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Janett, but we are overbooked. We offered $500.00 travel comps to get folks to give up their seats and board a later flight, but had no takers. So unfortunately, we are removing you from this plane and will book you on the next connection out.” I did the math, and it didn’t add up. “But that means I won’t get there until 3:30. I’m speaking at the convention at 2:00. It won’t work. I’ve had these reservations for over a month now; surely there must be something you can do, get me on another airline, etc.?”

Nope. Nothing. All the attendant kept repeating was, “We’ll have you on the next flight out, which arrives at 3:30.” It was like talking with a robot, she wasn’t listening to a single word I was saying.

Many of you have been in this position before – whether it was with an airline, phone company, car dealership, you name it. It’s a feeling of anger, frustration, disbelief and desperation that equal a feeling of powerlessness. Only we now live in a world where the consumer has a lot more power to influence. In the age of social media, companies are more vulnerable to suffering consequences when they fail customers.

Of course, this is a double edged sword, as I was prepared to tell the audience in Nashville. Good companies can cultivate consumer loyalty and use it to promote their brand to the marketplace. But, negative reviews and complaints, often ill-founded, can also serve as a detour sign around your company when potential customers look you up online.

In my case, there was nothing ill-founded about this. They had sold me the ticket. They certainly would have charged me a whopping penalty had I asked to change the flight on my own. But they thought they were immune to any backlash. They were wrong.

What they didn’t realize is that I have more than 4,000 social media followers, and as a consultant to fuel companies on digital and social media, I certainly know how the game is played. So I tweeted out the following message, and also posted it on my Facebook page:

“Thank you #United for overbooking my flight from Newark to Nashville and bumping me, despite my having booked over a month ago. And a special shout-out to the #attitude at the departures desk who couldn’t care less that I will now likely MISS my 2pm #SpeakingEngagement at the #NPGA Southeastern Convention. #Worst #CustomerServiceExperience ever.”

Literally 3 minutes after my post, I hear over the loud speaker, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are now offering a travel voucher of $1,000.00 to the first person to voluntarily give up their seat.” And barely a minute later, “Susan Janett, would Susan Janett come to the United counter. When I got there, the attendant handed me a phone. It was a United Customer Service Manager.

The nice woman on the phone said, “We are so sorry for any inconvenience this misunderstanding has caused. We have a seat for you on the plane, and will have you in Nashville in time to speak at the convention. Please accept our apologies.”

In the end, I made it to Nashville on time, and Ben Gutkin and I had a great time with a packed audience. Not how I would have scripted it, but sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Take-aways from the experience:

If you want to explore your social media options, or ways to enhance all of your marketing, connect with me at SJanett@Warmthoughts.com or text/call my cell at
551-556-0224. I’m always a message within reach.

Social Media guru Susan Janett leads her social marketing team, managing more than 30 social campaigns in the retail energy industry including 8 state associations nationally. Using Social Media to marry the dealer company with their community, Susan is the magic behind the FMANJ Love My Oilheat and the NCPERF Love My Propane campaigns; which launch fun and engaging content and contests for luring in followers, and landing her pro-energy content on unsuspecting captive newsfeeds by manipulating Facebook algorithms. Dubbed the “first responder,” Susan’s calming replies to angry posters has become epic among her clients. On the reviews front, Susan is legendary in the energy industry for unsurpassed reputation management and hands-on disgruntled customer intervention.

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