Southwest Blog Takes Off and Hits Some Turbulence

I applaud Southwest Airlines for being the first airline to engage into the blogosphere with thier Nuts About Southwest Blog. I think the site looks great and it may become a model for future brand name blogs. However, as with most forays into blogging by big businesses, the site is gathering some constructive criticism. It’s coming from Shel Israel for not being engaging enough, from Robert Scoble for being too “safe” and from my colleague John Cass for burying this customer service disclaimer in their obscure “User Guide”.

One final disclaimer — the Southwest Blog is not the forum to address personal Customer Service issues. All of us have “day jobs,” and we simply don’t have the resources through this blog to resolve individual concerns. Even though this is not the forum, Southwest is eager to resolve your concerns. Our Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards folks want to assist you, and you can contact them by…

I would like to weigh in on the customer services aspect of this discussion. Of course Blogs should be open and ready to respond to comments, but I think the constructive bloggers out there should remember that airlines already have very elaborate customer service systems. Do you think this blog would have ever gotten off the ground if the blog evangelists selling the idea to Southwest leaders said “if we’re going to blog then we have to reconfigure our customer services departments so we can respond to all the potential customer inquiries that come in through the blog”? In the case of an airline, or a car manufacture I don’t think the blog is the place for that anyway.

Built in Customer Service is a great aspiration for a blog but I don’t think it’s a realistic expectation for the first batch of brand name corporate blogs. Rational people know how to complain to an airline. You walk up to the ticket counter; you call the toll free number or go to the website. If your claim is valid they do what they can to keep you happy if they don’t they know that you have other choices. If it is not taken care of sufficiently there, then a blog may be an ok place for the irate to vent and have a soapbox but should we really expect large companies to portray their blogs as a customer service vehicle?

Now I’m not arguing the blogs can’t be great customer service vehicle. I believe that blogs could be a great STRATEGY for Southwest or any company to consider IF one of their primary goals is to build or revamp its customer service system.

All that being said, Southwest should do a better job communicating their commenting policy and be prepared with some strategy for directing inquires to the appropriate Southwest resource (be it a phone number, web site, FAQ, email address or even a previous blog post).

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Filed under: Blogging Strategy

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 27, 2006 6:07 PM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

Comments

When I first read the Southwest Blog, I thought, "Why not have a customer be a guest blogger?" That would certainly change the dynamics of the blog. I can just imagine what would happen with that scenario... I'm sure Southwest wouldn't allow any negativity...only good stories, please!

Posted by: Maria Palma | April 27, 2006 8:18 PM

Thanks for the thought Maria. You know -- on my way home tonight I drove past the local Pizzeria Uno in Waltham and I noticed the parking lot full of Audi S4s (at lease 50 - 100). Curious, I cruzed around the parking lot in my VW and looked around at all the shiny cars as their prideful owners coalesced. This was a meet up of S4 owners. These folks are obviously passionate about their cars but bet you that the grand poobahs of the group could probably pull out a list of quibbles that they have. Now, to respond to your thought, Maria. Wouldn't it be valuable for Audi to invite some of these folks as guest bloggers on their blog. Now the fact that Audi does not have an official blog is beside the point : )

It would add to the blogs credibility to have real passionate customers talking about the product (in this case very fast high performance German car). Audi would certainly get a lot of kudos and respect in the blogosphere for doing it and it would also be a more effective form of word of mouth marketing because the trend these days is for people to trust consumer opinion more than advertising. Another thought here is that Audi may not need an official blog because apparently their customers have organically created such a credible and authentic community http://audi.meetup.com/cities/us/ma/waltham/?from=loc_pick

Now, I hope you can see how this analogy could apply to Southwest's passionate devotees.

Posted by: Stephen Turcotte | April 27, 2006 9:04 PM

Stephen,

That was a great analogy. I, for one, am a huge Audi fan - so you're story certainly hit home :)

Posted by: Maria Palma | April 28, 2006 12:40 AM

Just listened to the http://www.forimmediaterelease.biz/ Podcast #132. Shel (the other Shel) and Neville talked about the Southwest Blog in today's show. Both had nothing but positive things to say. I think they're right. The more I read this blog the more I like it.

Posted by: Stephen Turcotte | April 28, 2006 1:05 AM

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