Unless you live under a rock you will have heard what happened at the beginning of this week in regards to a certain airline. If you do happen to live under a rock then let me fill you in. On Tuesday afternoon US Airways 'inadvertently' tweeted a pornographic image of a woman and her toy Boeing 777 in response to a customer's complaint over Twitter.
We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating.— US Airways (@USAirways) April 14, 2014
There has, as you would expect, been a lot of social outcry over the incident. With a lot written, and with differing opinions on the steps that US Airways should have taken. So I thought it was about time I weighed in with my opinion.
The results from plugging the @USAirways Twitter handle into our Twitter Performance Tracker were impressive. US Airways had an average response time of 9mins 37s—with 94.2% of responses being made in under an hour. This is even more impressive when you consider that US Airways got on average 63.4 direct Twitter mentions per hour—this number does not even take into account indirect mentions either.
Without the proper tools and systems in place, responding to this volume at such a high speed can result in serious mistakes. In an article published on Mashable on Tuesday, writer Brian Ries makes the point that 99.99% of tweets US Airways replies to (which is a lot) don’t contain offensive images. Great—but off point. What matters to brands and users alike is that these issues do not occur in the first place.
Fundamentally, it could have been prevented. An efficient workflow and an effective social customer service tool with relevant features can help ensure quality and reduce risk of errors. Here are three key features that could have helped prevent this crisis:
Having the ability to approve a user’s actions (including responses) either entirely or as a percentage of all of their actions will mean managers can assess agents work before it goes live. For new agents or those in a crisis situation where volumes (and agent stress levels) are high, an approval workflow allows a supervisor or other trusted agents (in peer-review) to second check the quality of responses being sent. Had US Airways incorporated an approval workflow the error may not have happened.
By prioritizing actionable content, agents spend less time thinking about whether a response is required, allowing agents to respond in a timely manner without the stress of having to manually filter through the noise. An effective prioritization engine allows agents to concentrate on writing high quality responses that are less prone to error, reducing agent stress and effort.
Finally, it’s important to recognize that managers cannot read every single piece of content on social media to keep track of trends and potential issues. Real-time dashboards that track incoming content volumes, SLA performance and trends allow managers to identify trending issues as they happen, and ensure a timely response to a crisis.
US Airways is doing a great job of responding to customers quickly over social–already much better than most brands. But the cost of a mistake on social media means it’s essential to have the right precautions in place to prevent crises; or to have the ability to realize and react immediately when they do occur. It’s great that US Airways has stood by their employee—humans will always make the occasional mistake—but with the right platform in place, even human error can be avoided.
For more on social customer service for the airline industry, download our latest report that focuses on the performance of 20 of the world's largest airlines—drawing comparisons between North America and European airlines—providing key insight and recommendations for creating a better social customer service strategy along the way.