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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Social Business Evolution Starts with Good Social Service, Thank You @CathayPacific

I had a recent experience with Cathay Pacific and want to share how Social Customer Service made a difference and some lessons for any business offering Social Service.

Cathay Pacific and me as a customer

First, I am fan of Cathay Pacific. I love flying on Cathay Pacific for my international travels. In the past, everytime I got to talk to a real customer service person on the phone or at the airport they were awesome. Service online is excellent.

However, web and phone which are traditional customer support channels fell short for Cathay Pacific support when I needed it this week.

1. Cathay's web site is functional but does not communicate well if something does not work because of a business rule. I ran into just that trap and began spinning my wheels early this week.

I changed my mother's Cathay Pacific ticket to a new date and could not get seat assignment done online. The online site told me I was eligible to get special seat assignment but gave no details.

2. Cathay Pacific has several local phone numbers for US and I recalled from my past interaction they have a separate number for eservice for tickets purchased online.

The eService number failed repeatedly saying the number does not work from the number I called (which was a local US phone I called from).

They have several local US numbers and the California number seems to work only from 9 am to 5pm California time. This number hung up on me saying there is large wait time everytime I called.

As a final resort I found Cathay Pacific has an international support number which is a Hong Kong number. I reluctantly called them as an international call staying up late at midnight my time. I had to choose several options which did not lead me anywhere.

Enter Social Media Customer Support

Frustrated and helpless, I did what I always do. I tweeted. I called out @cathaypacific and complained. My Twitter friends  tweeted back empathizing saying it is bad if I had to do an international call for support.

@CathayPacific tweeted me and brought in @cathaypacificUS to the conversation.

Over the next 2 days I kept tweeting as I  tried their various 800 numbers.

As I felt alone and helpless as the 800 numbers failed or hungup on me, I tweeted (see screenshot below). At it escalated I called out MarshaCollier who is the guru in Social Customer Service. So when my problem was solved Marha ReTweeted to her 42,000 followers.

@CathayPacificUS kept the engagement with me during this time. They sent me direct message on Twitter and found out  that my ticket was of a particular class and hence I could get not get seat assignments. A twitter Direct Message in 140 characters could not solve my problem. I had more questions on why my ticket was of that class with the limitation.

But it served one purpose. It kept me engaged with CathayPacific. It did not make me lose faith in them as a brand. It did not encourage me to continue negative tweets.

They tweeted me saying a rep was going to call me and they did after a day. My ticket class type could get seat assignments only 48hrs before the flight time. This was never communicated to me on the web site or in my eticket. It was flaw in their online system, it was a flaw in their 800 numbers line management, it was a flaw in their communication to customers.

But this experience proved to me Cathay Pacific cared for me as a customer. They went out of their way to solve my problem. Thank You CathayPacific Twitter Support team. 

Setting up Social Business Process for Social Customer Support

As I work in social media in a large company I wonder about these questions about Cathay Pacific:

1. How @CathayPacific and @CathayPacificUS are connected, what is their internal workflow to transfer a US customer complaint from their social listening platform?

2. Did they treat me differentlty in their Customer Service response because I had a large Twitter following? Or were they able to give such a response to all customers?

3. I wonder how they escalated across the Twitter Service and their regular phone reps to arrange for a rep to call me and I am thankful for that.

4. Calling a customer back is expensive, how would they measure the ROI of supporting me? I am happy and going to stay their continued customer and will likely tell a lot of others that Cathay Pacific is a good airline.  Do they measure this differently or I was a spike in a call center cost because I was noisy on a social network?

5. Do they monitor their customer conversations and will my tweets add to the sentiments they track?

6. I have given valuable feedback on their online system that did not tell me my ticket class allowed me to get seat assignments only 48 hours earlier.  I have given feedback on 800 numbers that do not work for US customers. Do they have a process in place to send my feedback to the correct departments? If so do they listen? Again, how do they measure the value of this customer feedback?

7. Now my perception of Cathay Pacific has changed from this cold website and 800 number to a personable brand with real people who care. Do they know and have a way to track the sentiment change of a customer served via

I am still pondering who are the kind souls behind the Twitter Support in Cathay Pacific, how many of them are there and did I make their job difficult and do they know how much value their support and that they have earned me back as more loyal customer back for their company and brand.