Last Wednesday I flew from Boston to Philly on a midday JetBlue flight.
I’m a nervous flyer, even when the weather is cooperating. Last Wednesday, it was not.
It was stormy and rainy, and so the flight bounced around aggressively in those 59 hellish (for me) minutes; by the time we landed at PHL airport, I felt how an ice cube might feel inside a cocktail tumbler shaken by a jacked bartender.
So, as soon as we got the OK, I bolted out of my seat and out of that plane to thank baby jeebus and kiss the ground my feet were happily back on.
In my haste, I left behind the book I was reading. It was a copy of Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work that the author himself had signed for me just weeks before, when he keynoted the MarketingProfs B2B Forum. I didn’t realize the book was missing until I got to my hotel in downtown Philly. Dammit.
I sent a tweet:
— Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs) October 22, 2014
I know JetBlue is responsive on Twitter; I’ve chatted with them before there. I’ve also professed my love for the JetBlue culture. But when I sent that tweet last Wednesday night, I realized I had pretty much kissed that book goodbye. I mean, it wasn’t an iPad or a laptop or a coat or a backpack or a child (!) left behind—it was a $10 book.
Mentally, I’d moved on, and I was already plotting the logistics of sending Austin another book to sign since he’d offered as much when he saw my tweet.
JetBlue had seen it, too, and asked whether I had reported the book missing at the airport. But no, I had not. Because I was already at the hotel.
Ah, well. My mistake. Lesson learned. At least the airline responded—so thanks anyway, JetBlue.
That was that, I thought. But that wasn’t that, it turns out. A little more than an hour after my original tweet, JetBlue tweeted again: The ground crew in Philly had found my book!
They were holding it for me at the airport. And sure enough, the next day, at the Philly airport, someone from the JetBlue baggage office delivered it to Gate 73, where I was waiting to board a plane back to Boston. When I went up to the gate desk to claim it, they said, “Hey, Ann! I guess you lost this yesterday.”
— Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs) October 23, 2014
I was in Philadelphia to keynote the Ascend Digital Marketing Summit, email company AWeber’s inaugural event. On stage, I talked about the importance of creating experiences for your customers—of the need to think of your content as a kind of “gift” that meets their needs and helps them, a gift with a sense of style and personality and empathy. But also, the gift of systems and processes that work.
Later in the day at the event, my friend Peter Shankman said, “People expect to be disappointed” when they interact with brands. You can choose to not disappoint them just by doing the bare minimum—just by doing what you promise you’ll do.
But you can also “dial it up to a 5 just by doing the things they don’t expect—going above and beyond,” Peter said. (I’m actually paraphrasing here, but it’s pretty close to his actual words.) The idea being that excellent customer service is the equivalent of good marketing.
So was JetBlue’s rescue of my book customer service… or was it “marketing”?
I guess the bigger question might be, in this age of social media and content: What isn’t marketing?
Let’s put this story in a broader context. What can we all learn from JetBlue’s book rescue?
1. Go a step (or two) (or 12!) beyond the minimum. Deliver true value—don’t just do your job. For some brands, a step or two beyond the minimum might be to just respond on social media.
2. Make social the central nervous system, not just the face. JetBlue’s social media team doesn’t function in a marketing or customer service silo—clearly, they’re empowered and connected to the larger organization.
Some companies treat their social media accounts as the ears or face of an organization, which is fine. But at JetBlue, social feels like part of the central nervous system.
More evidence of that was when I called the telephone number JetBlue had given me on Twitter. I was braced for one of those awkward, circular conversations we’ve all experienced when we’re calling a division of a large brand, when you’re trying to quickly recapitulate your issue and the backstory and the reason for the call.
But as soon as I said my name, the voice on the other end said, “Oh hey Ann! Your book is right here.”
Did you see catch that? I never even had to explain why I was calling.
3. Make your people accountable. Chris DeFelice, who is one of two JetBlue social media people located in Philly, told me later than in the culture of JetBlue, “every customer matters.”
“I monitor PHL on Twitter and reach out to my team to help customers live,” Chris told me.
Although JetBlue’s social response team could have people located anywhere—from Peoria to Prague to Philly —having some of its representatives physically located in JetBlue’s own markets clearly creates a greater sense of corporate and civic accountability.
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So again: Was JetBlue’s rescue of my book customer service… or was it “marketing”?
I’d say yes.