Biztech Oct 16, 2012
Seriously: Social media monitoring? Big Data analytics? Wozu hast du mir den Kopf verdreht? (ooooph – says grandma Anna) – Just get the basics right and you would not need to go nuts with any of this stuff. Here is a funny, though not funny, example of working on the wrong stuff – that cost me US$300 to tell: I accrued enough reward points with my (Elite!!) credit card carrier to take four family and friends on vacation this August. No blackout dates! Whoopee! That is more than great. I found the tickets, booked the flights via my Card company’s website, and received email confirmation. All was right with the world.
But then. Email update number one from the airline arrives. But the message is from a third party on behalf of the airline, and it is not the airline operating the plane, but another airline DBA (“doing business as” for non-english natives) the airline, and the equipment for the DBA comes from another airline entirely. Do you see any potential for trouble here?
Email update #1. Slight change in itinerary/time.
Two weeks later:
Email update #2. Ominous. Slight change in itinerary/time. Just 12 minutes different time or departure in NY.
Email update #3. Slight change in itinerary/time. This arrived three weeks after update #2.
Email update #4. Slight change in itinerary/time. Two weeks later, another ‘cosmetic’ change.
Email update #5. Slight change in itinerary/time. More changes. Vacation party feeling fragile. Maybe I stop telling them about the updates.
Some ‘Reward.’ Did I receive a word of ‘sorry’ from my Credit Card company? No. But one of my guests, anxious about the changes every couple of weeks, got cold feet and cancelled. I called the Membership program contact centre. I was on their chatty, spinning, flashing website, but could not find a way to cancel just one ticket of four. I call in….
Did they know my flight number in the customer service centre? No. Airline? No. Any record of flight? Only that I had used Reward Points. I explain the cancellation request, and the five ‘update notices’ that have driven us to distraction. “I am so sorry,’ says the polite but ineffective agent, ‘Your guest can use the ticket for up to one year, for only a $180 change fee.”
Only a $180 change fee on the $300 ticket, from the airline that drove us mad? Will the airline consider waiving the change fee? I ask this with great deference. But this is: “Agent with no power, but very polite”, and she says, ”Let me put you on hold and I will speak with them.” (Hey, I’m thinking – with your vaunted social media babble floating on your website with Tweets and Facebook posts – sanitised, of course – why can’t I just listen to you speak with the airline? Sure I can: when shrimp learn to whistle.)
Answer back from airline, from behind the Wizard of Oz curtain: “Tell your client to pound tar. If the final change were more than 90 minutes, then we would allow it.” (I paraphrase with the ‘pound tar.’). Did they consider the inconvenience of five changes, which in aggregate were more than 90 minutes? Do any of you doubt the answer?
Easy come, easy go. No one takes responsibility, no one is at fault. Human agents are chained to ridged policies. All fine. But do you know what? If a consumer chose to go viral and unleash the Consumer Fascism of Twitter and Facebook and posts on websites and YouTube, then attention would be paid and action taken. Why? Because it is the altar of social media monitoring, and there we can offer gifts to the Social Deity.
Postscript: how does Big Data detect this issue? It cannot. Everyone did their job. Everyone was polite. All policies were adhered to. No consideration was given to context. The customer did not act as a raving lunatic on social media. They just walked away. In this case not even the airline was mentioned. It doesn’t matter. It is the Somonyng of Everyman.
An empowered agent would have access to my travel history that would show I am both a corporate customer and a private customer. It would reveal that this was my rare use of a Rewards point. That I spend a substantial amount of money with them each year, and have for 15 years. That there were five changes to flight times. That I don’t badger or harass with social media messages. And my reward? Bubkes. Bubkes is also hard to detect on Social Media or with Big Data.
The CIO does not want to work towards good customer service. It is boring. It is not a career path. It is not chichi nor does it win a bigger budget. Only the corporation, shareholders and the customer win. So let’s focus on BIG DATA! The Internet of Things (the clapping grows louder!). Cloud applications! Mobile!! (they’re on their feet now!).
Ah, about that customer! (And IT nods off for good.)
The author is a Research Vice President and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research.
For more blogs by Michael Maoz, log on to http://blogs.gartner.com/