Lessons from SIA: Go social or die
Singapore - For us and many others, Singapore Airlines is the best in the world. SIA has consistently set the bar for airlines globally, with its gold standard of service, the iconic Singapore Girl, and firsts from entertainment systems to A380s.
Which makes recent events all the more baffling.
A few weeks ago, Singapore Airlines rolled out a new website design. The new site had been some two years (and millions of dollars) in the making. And it is broken.
The call center was quickly inundated with calls. It had to add a pre-recorded message saying that the website was experiencing ‘teething problems' (such as users not being able to book flights) and that call volumes were leading to delays.
These delays are now costing tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue, increased servicing costs, and diminished brand equity.
You would think that SIA, with its strong focus on customers and image, would be carefully managing communications around this crisis.
But what actually has been its response? Silence.
It is as if SIA believes that by ignoring the problem it will go away, when the opposite is in fact true. It won't surprise you that Singapore Airlines has a Facebook Page with over 100,000 fans, but did you know that fans created it?
SIA says they don't have a Page, and they never reply to either compliments or complaints there.
Now they have allowed their Fan Page to become a Vent Page.
Here are the kind of comments seen on the page recently:
Best on air and ground service. Alas, also Worst Online experience.
I have wasted hours trying to book my flights on the new website. Now I've got the booking, it crashes when I try select seats. Fail!
Why no one from SIA is answering complaints about the website? Why the silence?
Two questions must surely be asked.
The first is, how could this standard-bearer let itself go so far off course?
Our theory, based on personal interactions, is that SIA has lost its obsessive focus on the customer, and instead is focusing on Innovation with a capital I, the flash-bang-wow type.
In the online world, you must place the user front-and-center. You must test and improve continuously, and communicate constantly on Facebook, Twitter - or two cans and string (if that is where they are). Serve users relentlessly - or lose them.
The second question is, how should SIA now recover?
We have a five step recovery process.
1. Admit that there is a problem (often the hardest step)
2. Honestly say ‘yes we goofed up, but we are fixing it'
3. Define a usability plan of action. Work meticulously on testing and fixing the site and booking engine. Get silo-busting CEO-backing upfront.
4. Actively manage discussions on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums. Create a governance model to cover both Business-As-Usual and Crisis Management.
5. Re-commit to customer service and user experience as core values.
Successful management of digital and social channels will separate the winners and losers of the 21st century. We pray that Singapore Airlines re-joins the winners.
Keith Timimi (pictured) is the Chairman of Qais Consulting, a Singapore-based digital agency. This article is based on an interview carried out with Timimi by Andrea Edwards, CEO of SAJE, a content and communications agency, also in Singapore.
- Qais Consulting
- Singapore Airlines
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