Delta Airlines fails to use Social Media to help passengers.

On August 8, 2016 Delta airlines experienced a system outage. It resulted in several hundred flights cancelled on that day and thousands delayed worldwide.

I first heard about the outage at 7 am MST when my son phoned me to tell me about it. He and his wife were travelling on August 8, for their long awaited honeymoon.  He said he heard that Delta flights were affected and people should check their reservations and flight status before heading out to the airport. When he looked at his reservation online, there were no indications of any problems with any of the flights.  He put in a call to Delta and the automated message told him that hold times were anywhere between 4 and 4.5 hours long.  He knew that my higher elite status might yield a quicker call back time so he asked that I put in a call.  When I called Delta the wait time was an hour and a half to one hour and fifty five minutes long.  I input my phone number and waited.

While I was waiting for the callback, I looked at Delta’s twitter feed to see what updated information I might find.  It was already 10:30 eastern time and the last tweet from Delta News Hub was almost two hours earlier at 8:40.

delta 2

I checked the reservation on delta.com and all information showed that flights were still operating on time. Actually, at that point, all flights departing Charlotte NC airport were operating on time according to the Delta website.  It was only when I went to look at the Charlotte airport website that I saw how many departing Delta flights were either cancelled or delayed.  My son’s flight was scheduled to leave at 3:30 pm for Atlanta to connect with an international flight to Amsterdam.   I knew that at this point that they would never make the international connection if they waited for their scheduled flight and only showed up at the airport in the afternoon.  I told them to get to the airport as soon as possible and be ready to board any flight that was actually moving.

An hour and thirty seven minutes later I received the call back from Delta.  I asked them what flights were still operating from Charlotte to Atlanta and they moved the reservation to flight #2251 that was scheduled to depart at 11:55 am and was now delayed until 2:12 pm.  Many of the earlier departing flights had been cancelled.  When they got to the airport at least 200 people were in line for agents to deal with their travel issues.  The agent informed my son that there was one more flight that was scheduled to leave Charlotte, flight #2609 that was scheduled to depart at 8:44 that morning was now supposed to fly at 2:00 pm and they got boarding passes for that one.  They boarded the aircraft just before 3 pm. The aircraft backed away from the gate and sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes. The pilot was great in informing passengers of the delay but eventually pulled back to the gate because Atlanta issued a ground stop, not once but twice since they were sitting on the plane.  Eventually that plane took off at 5:23 pm and got into Atlanta at 6:06 pm.

For several hours if passengers checked their flight status on the delta.com website or the delta app, neither showed that the flights were cancelled. Cancellations showed up if you searched the arrival and departure information of certain airports.  Some flight tracking sites  like www.flightaware.com and www.flightstats.com showed updated departure times (some with 6 hour departure delays) hours before the Delta website did.

Delta’s Unhelpful Cancellation Announcements

At  8:00 a.m. Delta News Hub started posting that 300 flights were cancelled and by 1:30 the number was up to 451. It’s great to give this update but let’s help people out a little by letting them know quickly and easily what flights were cancelled. As the day wore on, more and more flights were cancelled and travelers stranded without much help.  Lines at the airports were long, waiting for call backs was endless and the Delta website did not give accurate information.  That’s a problem.

Delta had every opportunity to use their Delta News Hub website to have a running list of cancelled flights making it easier for customers to get instant information. This was a huge missed opportunity. Actually when you look at the News Hub site, it looks like it is tailored for shareholders of the company and not the passenger. It is simply an old fashioned crank out the news platform…not designed to be interactive or helpful.

Delta.com

Delta did not use their website to their advantage at all. Where was the alert or warning right on the home page of the website? Nowhere did Delta.com advise the passengers of the outage and its effect on flights.

Social Media can help or hinder

One of the greatest tools any corporation has in times of crisis is social media.  It’s a fast way to get the message out to thousands of customers in real time.  It is the go to tool that customers use to get up to the minute information.

Here’s one example of the blunders we found on Delta News Hub

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Great! until you clicked on the link and found this:

delta not authorized

What? Not authorized?

Social Media Blunder Rule #1

Never deny access to information you have advertised on public posts/tweets.

This type of blunder on a high crisis travel day just stresses passengers out even more. Social media could have been used to an advantage but wasn’t. Who was tweeting, posting and commenting for Delta Airlines?

Who’s in charge of the message?

In June of this year Delta hired Moxie USA (www.moxieusa.com) as their social media agency. Only a few weeks into the relationship and the social media strategy has failed considerably.

“Moxie is a recognized expert in the social space,” said Julieta McCurry, Director, Marketing Communications at Delta. “As we continue to grow, it’s critical that we create meaningful and relevant experiences for our customers across the channels they increasingly rely on the most.”

Kristina Jonathan, EVP of Strategy at Moxie, commented, “Social plays an always-on and central role in Delta’s business — connecting customer service, brand relevance and flight reservations 24/7. We are absolutely thrilled to partner with the Delta team to design and employ sophisticated storytelling across the largest shared spaces on the web.”

So many of these agencies promise the moon but fail on delivery when a crisis presents itself. Why? Because most of them aren’t equipped to handle it. In this case it seems that Delta itself had no clear cut strategy for crisis although they should have.  So those people tweeting, posting and commenting on behalf of the company had to wait for some sort of corporate approval before each tweet or post was sent. Well prepared corporations plan for crisis and carry out drills to be prepared for the real event.

Another problem is that those who are handling the crisis on the inside really have no idea what the customer is experiencing on the outside.  The lack of returned calls, the 200 person long line ups at the airport, no idea when things will get back to normal and the sense of loss knowing that they will miss important events like a parents 50th wedding anniversary or honeymoons unnerve people. These stories are all over twitter and Facebook.

What are you doing to make this easier for your customer?

That’s the bottom line in any messaging during a crisis. No one wants to see a corporate video that looks it is made to appease the shareholders.They don’t want to see posts that offer no solutions and they don’t want to see information links that tell a customer they aren’t authorized to view the page.  They want to see solutions.  Is the website now showing updated and real flight cancellations?  Have you put more staff on the phones to try and make the wait time shorter? Tell us. Tell us what you are doing to help us.

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“This isn’t who we are”

Delta CEO Ed Bastian was featured in two videos about the outage; the first an apology and update from the operation center and the second, a confusing message stating “this isn’t who we are”.

Social media begs that leadership of organizations show the human touch to communications online today. Take for example the tweets of Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes after the Air Crash QZ8501

tony-fernandes tweets

These were personal and created a connection with anyone reading them. There was no question that he cared about everyone affected.  It’s the difference between a personal message and a corporate one.  It doesn’t seem that Ed Bastian has a twitter account…maybe he should.

Delta stated it wanted to “create meaningful and relevant experiences for our customers across the channels they increasingly rely on the most.” In this case I think they missed their mark.

Before I go

Lastly I do want to acknowledge how amazing Delta airport staff and flight crews were during this crisis. The pressure on the front lines is enormous.  Also big thank you needs to go out to staff from United and Frontier Airlines in Charlotte Douglas International Airport who stepped in to help Delta staff with Delta passengers.

By the way 48 hours later and my son still didn’t get a call back from Delta.

Nejolla Korris is a speaker and consults and teaches classes on social media risk and other security topics. If you are interested in Nejolla as a speaker or for more information, visit Nejolla’s website at www.interveritas.com.   She is also a very frequent flyer on Delta airlines and usually loves their customer service.

 

 

 

 

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Reputation Risk and Social Media: Where personal and professional worlds collide

Social media has become the murky water where personal and professional reputations are shared, liked, posted and sometimes annihilated. The ability to share anything on the spot has become the bane of many an organization and the people who work for them.

Just a week ago a young veterinarian Kristen Lindsey was fired for posting and boasting about  a picture of herself with a cat that she had killed with a bow and arrow.  While police couldn’t charge Lindsey until they determined if the picture was real or not, her employer didn’t hesitate to take action. The Washington Animal Clinic issued a statement on their website.  “We are absolutely appalled, shocked, upset, and disgusted by the conduct,” a spokesperson for the clinic wrote in a statement. “We condemn it in the strongest possible manner.”

Does a social media gaff have to have this type of shock factor in order to be noticed? The answer is no.  If your corporation only measures social media violations based on how far reaching they are, then stand by because the shock wave will come.

A couple of years ago, we conducted an exercise where one corporation wanted to measure the online footprint of some of their senior executives.  Everyone of the individuals bought into the exercise and were sure that their online footprints were essentially clean…..but, there’s always that one….  We had a look at some online dating sites and we stumbled upon one where people are looking for affairs.  We  put in a series of search criteria; location, age range (because everybody lies about it), height, hair color, eye color etc. Lo and behold a picture loads and it is the professional picture of one of our executives and it is the same picture used on the corporate website.

As you can imagine, this opened up a huge can of worms. The executive claimed his private life was private. The corporation claimed “not when you use the picture we own of you”.  It is so easy to see how these worlds can collide. I’m not at liberty to say what happened to this executive, but let’s just say the point was made.  Anyone, anywhere can make the connection between an individual and where they work.

When I read posts on social media I always look at who is making them. Especially those that threaten or break ethical boundaries. And each and everyday I am shocked at those who do not have a filter or a thought that what they might be posting is inappropriate for their positions.  But it makes for interesting reading, research and eventually fodder for my classes. When teaching in house sessions on social media risk I am always amused at the participants madly deleting posts and pictures throughout the duration of the class.

Some tips to keep your personal & professional reputations intact:

1)  Distance your personal and professional social media profiles.                                      If you have a professional reputation to protect then maybe don’t mention where                  you work on your personal social media profiles.

2) Think before you post.                                                                                                              If you think that your opinion or actions can come back and bite you professionally –            don’t post them. (And PS how many times have I seen someone make an                            inappropriate post and then claim their accounts were hacked? – nope don’t buy it)

3)  Disclaimers on social media mean nothing.                                                                         Those posts of “views are my own and don’t reflect the view of my employer” mean              absolutely nothing.  This will not prevent people from associating you with your                    employer, in fact, it usually draws people to look into who your employer is.

4)  Understand your social media policy and code of conduct                                               Remember that you only have one reputation.

As long as HR & Ethics departments think that what a person posts on their social media profiles is personal, then they do nothing to mitigate the risks involved for the corporation. There is no such thing as personal or private as long as a person uses social media. Worlds collide and merge as one – either like a good marriage or a bad one.

Nejolla provides training to corporations on social media risk and social engineering.  

Citi Vice President and Tech Guy from QQ Solutions Post a Bit Too Much on Social Media?

It’s a daily occurrence in social media for people to post, criticize, threaten and conspire.  The sweeping epidemic of negativity still surprises me, even though it shouldn’t and I wonder what motivates people to do it.   Does anyone think about how leaving a permanent legacy of their name, photo and venom for everyone to see will affect their reputation? Last week I was involved in a dispute with a dog rescue in North Carolina. The rescue posted her version of events of course twisting details to garner sympathy.  She then blocked me from posting remarks.  As you can predict, I was barraged with a ton of hater posts.

Looking through a few of them, I was interested some of the more threatening posts. Who were these people who spewed hatred and their willingness to come after me?   Usually the most damning posts come from Trolls, people with fake identities and live for the moment to damn others but not all.  People who didn’t know me, would never meet me and I would never meet them swarming like locusts wanting to cause damage. A couple of guys post caught my eye.  They were conspiring about different ways they could come after me. One suggested legal action initially, then the second started talking about “other ways” to bring me down. They debated a forced take down of my website, threats to my hosting provider, then other ways to take me down nudge, nudge, wink, wink. And one of them said they could help because of the work they do. They reminded me of two  gorillas pounding their chests to assert their position as kings of the jungle.

I wondered who they were and clicked on their profiles.  And what did I find? A Vice President of Citi Bank and a tech guy with insurance software provider QQ Solutions.

Ken Cronin’s FB profile tells me he works for Citi and his LinkedIn Profile lists his title as Vice President, Learning Technology and Architecture. I do a double take. What the heck is this guy doing getting involved and posting where he should not be?  Most financial institutions have really strict social media policies and employee codes of conduct.  In a nutshell they say that regardless of whether an employee is on company time or personal time they always represent the corporation. And nowhere is that more prevalent than with members of senior management.  So here we have a Citi Vice President conspiring with another guy to try and force the take down of my website and implying that there are other ways to get at me.  He is also taking a technology degree at present which may be funded by the bank. So is he using that bank funded education to hack or shame me?  Interesting question on where the ethical boundaries lie in this situation. As I scrolled down the public portion of his Facebook page,  I came across this post of his.

Now I see where Ken Cronin gets it….an inability to keep his comments to himself despite of where he works.   There have been other bad taste social media posts that have cost people their jobs.  The infamous Justine Sacco who tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding, I’m white!  The PR firm Justine worked for fired her before she landed in Johannesburg.

Earlier this year stockbroker Rayhan Qadar was fired from the firm Hargreaves Lansdown who stated they found his comment unacceptable. Qadar tweeted  ‘Think I just hit a cyclist. But I’m late for work so had to drive off lol’ Qadar was joking but his superiors didn’t find it funny at all.

Austin Rodden is much lower hanging fruit on his corporate family tree.   The company he works for provides software for the insurance industry…hmmm a big portion of my clientele as well.  What would they think about an employee of QQ Solutions thinking of taking tech revenge against a party they don’t know?  In most cases it should raise the hackles of any client.  If this is something he might do to a person he doesn’t know, how do we know a guy like him wouldn’t try to cause a client harm if his mood struck him that way?

When are we going to find our filters on social media? To think before we post, to mind our own business…or is that just not the nature of the beast? In so many ways it is great to that everybody has a voice. It serves to break down barriers, conquer geography and create communities.  And then there is the sheer idiocy of the endless hatred and rants that never seem to end.  As a friend of mine says “The Internet is like a woman, she never forgets and she never forgives”.

Tips:

Think before you post: you may think you are clever but your company might not.