Social Business, Social Media Strategy

Social Business Is About Actions Not Words

Update: Southwest wrote about this blog post in their in-flight magazine a couple months later. Cool!

I cried a little on a plane last week.

It wasn’t due to a delay, an uncomfortable seat, or peanut salt getting in my eye. It was because I saw a shining example of “social business” at work in the real world.

Mid-way on a Southwest Airlines flight home from a speaking engagement in Ft. Lauderdale, I looked up from my laptop to find Becky the flight attendant standing at the front of plane with a boy of about 9.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to disturb you, but I just thought you should know that we have a celebrity on the plane today. Well, perhaps not a celebrity today, but someday this young man will be a famous artist. Abraham has drawn us a marvelous picture. It’s quite wonderful, and I’ll be displaying it up here so we all can enjoy his great picture.”

Social Business Southwest airlines Social Business Is About Actions Not WordsThe kid was absolutely BEAMING with pride and accomplishment and happiness and honor. Abraham returned to his seat. Becky broke out the medical kit, ripped open a band-aid and used it as ersatz tape to post the picture on the wall.

A few minutes later, Abraham was back with a second picture. A landscape this time, Becky again made an announcement and grabbed another band-aid.

People First

When I talk about focusing on BEING social, rather than focusing on DOING social media, this is what I mean.

Social business isn’t about tools and technology. It’s about giving Becky the freedom to work off-script. It’s about cultural DNA that values moments of delight. It’s about treating customers as humans, not transactions. It’s about winning hearts and minds one planeload at a time with a personal, shared experience.

And it’s about building loyalty and triggering word-of-mouth by doing it well. Will Abraham’s parents ever fly any other airline? Will he? Will I? Or you?

For companies that are social at their core, social media just lets the rich get richer. For companies that don’t truly believe in the primacy of the customer, all the Twitter and Facebook and blogs and YouTube in the world won’t change their fortunes.

Social is foremost a philosophy, not a set of behaviors. And actions speak louder than words.

*******************************************************

UPDATE:

Southwest included a story about Becky and this blog post on their Nuts About Southwest blog.

Also,

Becky was featured in the company’s Employee Newsline podcast, put out every week by CEO Gary Kelly.

Transcript: And finally, for this week’s “Own It” moment, I’d like to recognize Baltimore-based Flight Attendant Stephanie “Becky” Terry. Recently, a blogger posted a wonderful story on his web site of how Becky made a difference for one of our young travelers. On a recent flight out of Fort Lauderdale, Becky called a young boy up to the front of the plane and made an announcement on the PA that we had a “famous artist” on the flight. Becky had noticed that the young man was drawing a picture during the flight, and she asked if she could share it at the front of the plane. As the boy returned to his seat, Becky broke out the medical kit, ripped open a band-aid and used it as an ersatz tape to post the picture on the wall. And, a few minutes later, the boy was back with a second picture, and Becky again made an announcement and grabbed another band-aid. As you can imagine, this just made his day, and it made an impression to the blogger who happened to be onboard. This is just another great example of how you all make special moments for our Customers on a daily basis. Way to Own It, Becky!

Related
  • http://kaithrun.de KaiThrun

    Hi Jay,

    thank you for your story here. It’s a little differently but important way of thinking. And I’m agree with you in all points. Thanks for sharing!

    best regards,

    Kai

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @KaiThrun Thanks very much for the comment Kai!

  • Elaine_Fogel

    Great story, Jay! I agree… it’s about empowering employees.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @Elaine_Fogel Why is it so hard for most companies to do Elaine?

      • Elaine_Fogel

        @JayBaer Maybe it’s because they don’t know any better, Jay. And, even if they do, it’s like trying to turn an aircraft carrier around in a river. What I wish many would do is to bring in those of us who can help them do it. It’s often an outsider that can make the difference with change management.

        Have a wonderful holiday!

  • http://viewfromthe14thfloor.com JohnPohl

    If you had told me this story and asked, “Guess what airline this was?”, Southwest would have been my first choice. I love the way they empower their employees, and to see how much those employees enjoy their jobs. Definitely one of my “hero companies.” (BTW, my second guess would have been Virgin Air. No other airline would have come to mind, which is quite a commentary on the overall quality of service provided by the airline industry–and in marked contrast to the quality you provide in your blog!)

    P.S. You have a typo–I think you intended your first word to be “I”, not “A”.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @JohnPohl Really good point about you being able to pick the airline. That says it all right? Thanks for the heads up on my typo too. Fixed.

      • http://viewfromthe14thfloor.com JohnPohl

        Thanks for the prompt reply, Jay. VERY Southwest-like! @JayBaer

  • http://hoop.la/ rosemaryoneill

    Everyone can take a lesson from this one. It cost them nothing to give that little boy and his parents a memory that they’ll still be talking about years from now. Brilliant thinking on the part of the flight attendant, and bravo to Southwest for allowing humans to be human!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @rosemaryoneill Exactly Rosemary. It costs them nothing. A culture of social makes all the difference.

  • tillypick

    Thank you for this post, Jay! I’m really glad you shared it and hope it gets picked up and passed on by all your followers. Social media is really not about technology, but about using technology to live and breathe human values that help make our world go round and be a fun place to be.

    If you have not already done so, you should send your note to Southwest to reinforce what happened on this flight. A week or so ago I had responded to a post of yours re: turning observations into practical suggestions for companies so they can do something with your insights. All too often the good stuff on the front lines does not get seen in the back room or the executive suite, resulting in policies and programs developed and implemented in a vacuum. I dare you to share it directly to them. :)

    tp

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @tillypick Thanks for the nudge. I’ve tweeted my contacts in the social media department at SWA. Hopefully, they can acknowledge Becky internally!

      • brooksethomas

        @JayBaer@tillypick Don’t worry, she will be properly recognized!

  • B2B_Barnstormer

    Jay, this is also a great example of how you have to hire people who already “get it”…people who are already customer focused. There is a difference between customer service and customer focus. You can’t teach a person who isn’t already customer focused to do what Becky did. It just isn’t in their DNA.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @B2B_Barnstormer Exactly. And conversely, it clearly IS in her DNA. I

  • KevinMGreen

    Great post, Jay. Other airlines we all know and love would probably complain about the use of the bandaids and the cost to replace them.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @KevinMGreen Ha Ha! That’s entirely possible.

  • philsimon

    Jay-

    You hit the nail on the head. It’s about a culture; not about mechanically taking discrete steps and “checking off boxes.”

    Phil

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @philsimon But yet very few people (even practitioners) understand that. Why is that?

      • philsimon

        @JayBaer Quite the question… We like to be tactical. We like to check boxes. It’s easier to fill out a spreadsheet than it is to change a mind-set. What do you think?

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ djwaldow

    Love it, Jay. I was one of the guys who happened to follow this in near real time as you were posting to Facebook. I love everything about this. I think the issue that many companies still struggle with when it comes to social media (as you point to in this post) is that they are just not that social to begin with. You can’t force social. I think you can teach it. You can hire it. But you can’t force it.

    Thanks for sharing an uplifting story.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @djwaldow Exactly, DJ. At some point you either feel this stuff in the bones of your company, or you don’t.

  • http://www.janwong.my/ janwong

    Wow, that really is awesome. I never thought things like these would / could happen on airplanes. I wonder if this is a personal initiative of Becky or are the flight attendants encourage to do so. Either way, it happened and that’s what being social is all about!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @janwong Doesn’t happen a lot, but happens more on Southwest than any other airline because they encourage their people to be spontaneous and real.

      • http://www.janwong.my/ janwong

        @JayBaer Which is exactly why I find that very interesting. I mean, it is one thing to just encourage and another for their people to do it. A great example for social breeding social :)

  • jaybaer

    @cnmoody Thanks for that Chris. What’s up with you?

    • cnmoody

      @jaybaer Not much man! I’m a noob at Red Hat, so ramping up as quickly as possible and about to do some great blogger / Google+ stuff. ;)

  • jaybaer

    @KratzPR Thanks Har. Send me another guest post!

    • KratzPR

      @jaybaer You got it!

  • AmyL_Bishop

    I loved this story! RT @KratzPR This post is a great example of why I listen to everything @jaybaer has to say. http://t.co/bWxjKsVW

  • ryancox

    Such a great story. Becky is absolutely WINNING!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @ryancox It’s all about the people. Always. Doesn’t matter what your marketing plan or Klout score is, your employees and your customers live and define your brand.

  • http://dresramblings.com/ acnatta

    @JayBaer it’s an extremely important thing to remember – it’s about the community you serve and not the product you’re pushing. At least, that’s what we hope it will be in the future. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @acnatta My pleasure. Glad you liked it.

  • ClaireThompson

    I’m really sorry. This is a lovely, lovely story, and I’m glad you shared it, but that’s about empowered customer service, nothing to do with ‘social’. The ‘social’ bit began when you were able to share it with a whole bunch of us who don’t know you. Surely?

    And that has nothing to do with Southwest Airlines – that’s just the environment we all work in now.

    If anything the lesson should be that social media gives us treble reason to invest properly in empowering staff/customer service

    • http://dresramblings.com/ acnatta

      @ClaireThompson I could be wrong, but I think that’s the point @JayBaer was trying to make in the first place.

    • jenn_seeley

      @ClaireThompson I can hear what you’re thinking, Claire, but I get the what and why behind this being ‘social’. Social is more than ‘just media’, or at least, it needs to be. Although it may be argued that Becky didn’t utilize social media directly, her actions are the kind that scream ‘tweet and tell the world’… And because of the freedom to be unscripted, warm and personal, Southwest Airlines came out on top for a boy, his family, the passengers on a plane.. and now, the social web. Perhaps Becky herself didn’t send out a tweet, or hack out a blog post, but she (on behalf of a giant brand that has entrusted her with such authority) created an experience that was worthy of sharing with an audience that Southwest Airlines could only hope to do on their own.

      Being heavily involved in what’s happening in social with airlines, I have to respectfully disagree with you Claire. In fact, this one small story sparks many a potential blog post…. Thanks for that, @JayBaer !!

      • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

        @jenn_seeley@ClaireThompson The biggest problem with “social media” is the word “media” in the name. Creates all kinds of misunderstandings, false impressions, and differing expectations.

        • jenn_seeley

          @JayBaer@jenn_seeley@ClaireThompson Yes, agreed! And although I spoke of ‘media’ in my response (because well, now here we are in fact.. sharing the story via said media) .. I certainly see the value in ‘social’ not being boxed up as just one small piece (media) to a much larger picture. I think it’s fair to say that although there has been this mighty ‘shift’ of power and consumers now look to ‘social media’ for everything from giving kudos to hashing out a problem, that consumers look to ‘social’ and expect friendly interactions online and off alike.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @ClaireThompson It’s not a story about social media, it’s a story about social business. They are not the same thing, which is why the headline is “social business.” Social business is about cultural DNA not tweeting links to your coupons.

  • http://angiesnest.com/ amfairbanks

    @ClaireThompson I have to agree with you. Lovely, amazing story, but it’s not inherently social media. What it IS is customer service that works as a form of marketing. Because marketing these days is so driven by social media, every interaction like this is a marketing opportunity since customers are empowered to instantly share positive (and negative) experiences with brands. This is exactly the mindset of the company I work for and the way of the future. If you can’t be authentic and transparent, customers are not going to be loyal. Companies need to think of every aspect of their business as a social opportunity to be competitive in this market.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @amfairbanks@ClaireThompson As mentioned below to Claire, I never said it was a social media story. It’s a social business story. Not the same thing.

  • jaybaer

    @debng Thanks Deb. Starting on your book tonight!

    • debng

      @jaybaer Very cool, Jay! Interested in your thoughts.

  • alexcwilliams

    Did you seriously cry?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @alexcwilliams I did a little bit. It was really that heart-warming when it unfolded in real-time. Probably helped/hurt that my son is about the same age. And I’m also a softie.

  • melissajoykong

    @kratzpr That is an incredible illustration of the power of social business. http://t.co/tcie3MYp

  • cencoastsocial

    Great story that gives us faith in big brand customer service – really touches the emotional center of everyone who hears/reads it.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @cencoastsocial Thanks very much. It was an amazing thing to experience, and helped that I was up-front in the plane.

  • VandaWall

    Well said!

  • WayneKilburn

    Social media rule #1: Give GREAT service and the tweets and status updates will naturally follow.

  • KimberlyEdwards

    Great post, thanks for sharing! This is Social Business in action, it is about bringing that humanization back into the organization…

  • http://www.myrlandmarketing.com/ NancyMyrland

    I love this story jaybaer !! Thanks for sharing as it is a reminder about what it means to be social to the core, from our hearts, and to reach out and care for other human beings as our primary goal and responsibility.

  • NancyMyrland

    @joshhumble Thanks Josh. How was your day?

  • bronwynclee

    WOW @Isprydigital this is ESSENTIAL Thanks so much for sharing Sarah

    • Isprydigital

      @bronwynclee My absolute pleasure! Glad you found it useful. Thx for the RT!

  • goodridge

    Great post Jay- keep it going…. love it

  • http://www.MarkMcCulloch.info/ TheMIllionaireMark

    Awesome post I very much enjoyed reading it and will be back for more…

  • jaybaer

    @swoodruff Thanks for the RT my friend.

    • swoodruff

      @jaybaer Glad you’re finally off the road – I’m sure you have restful family plans for the next few weeks (me, too!)

  • mthompson55

    I thought about this post today when I was boarding Delta. As usual, they oversold the flight and were looking for people to “take the bump” for $300 in Delta bucks. A woman came up to the counter timidly and inquired about the offer. You could tell she did not travel that much and was not concerned with the offer, but what it was. For those of us that fly often, the “bump” is pretty standard. However as she asked her questions, the counter person was not listening and kept repeating “it is $300″ and then in an ultimate sign of disrespect held her fingers up and said “$100, $200, $300.”

    The service didn’t get much better on the plane as an Asian woman asked where the bathroom was and got an over-enunciated answer.

    Delta’s wi-fi promotion in early 2011 always made me laugh- free access to Facebook and later Twitter. Their customer service rarely lives up to standard in my experience and yet they were giving away a megaphone to unhappy customers.

    Thanks for the post.

  • ToddBartlett

    Great post. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  • richardrshapiro

    Jay, this is such a great story. To me service and business is all about treating people as people. And that’s what Becky was doing. Not only did she treat Abraham as a person, she made all of the other passengers, like yourself feel so good too! More service associates need to think of ideas that will be nice surprises for their customers every day of the year. Richard Shapiro, The Center For Client Retention

  • MeltemSahin

    I also believe that human being should be the center of social media. Flesh and blood, we, the human beings use the apps, the graphics etc…That is a great experience as a n example… Thanks for the socialized ppl all over the world!

  • hospitalityfan

    What a beautiful story and analogy to how social media can be utilized by businesses! Big Fan of your posts!

  • MaryHall

    @amfairbanks ….Тhis is сrаzу…Мy friеnd`s sistеr mакеs 78/hr оn thе intеrnеt. Shе hаs bееn unеmрlоуеd fоr 11 mоnths but lаst mоnth hеr incоmе wаs 7985$ јust wоrкing оn thе РС fоr а fеw hоurs. Read about it here …….http://alturl.com/4v7r8

  • brooksethomas

    Hey, @JayBaer just wanted to let you know Becky was featured in this week’s Employee Newsline, put out every week by our head honcho Gary Kelly. I’m working on getting the audio byte, but here’s the transcript (each week, at the end of the Newsline, an individual Employee is recognized by Gary for going the extra mile).

    Transcript: And finally, for this week’s “Own It” moment, I’d like to recognize Baltimore-based Flight Attendant Stephanie “Becky” Terry. Recently, a blogger posted a wonderful story on his web site of how Becky made a difference for one of our young travelers. On a recent flight out of Fort Lauderdale, Becky called a young boy up to the front of the plane and made an announcement on the PA that we had a “famous artist” on the flight. Becky had noticed that the young man was drawing a picture during the flight, and she asked if she could share it at the front of the plane. As the boy returned to his seat, Becky broke out the medical kit, ripped open a band-aid and used it as an ersatz tape to post the picture on the wall. And, a few minutes later, the boy was back with a second picture, and Becky again made an announcement and grabbed another band-aid. As you can imagine, this just made his day, and it made an impression to the blogger who happened to be onboard. This is just another great example of how you all make special moments for our Customers on a daily basis. Way to Own It, Becky!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @brooksethomas I’m thrilled to hear that. Thanks very much. I’m going to update the post to include that info.

  • LauraOrban

    It’s a great story. Why is this social business, and not just good customer service? This could have happened 10 years ago before there was social anything. What would it have been called?

    I’m not asking for semantic purposes. I wonder if referring to every customer-focused action as “social something” makes things more confusing than they need to be. Social business sounds like a new thing companies need to figure out. But was what Becky did new? Do we make people feel like there is more to learn than necessary when we create a term for something that already exists?

    Or am I missing the point?

  • http://www.standingpr.com/blog cdixon21

    And THIS is why I choose Southwest every time… a touching story that amplifies Southwest’s approach to empowering their employees to deliver the best customer experience. Wow. I hope Becky gets a fat Christmas bonus.

  • bestvirtualhelp

    Great story! Thanks for posting and I so agree, of course! It’s a bit like kindness breeds kindness. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with someone like Becky?! Well done. Happy Holidays everyone.

  • restreitinho

    Great example, @jaybaer. It’s nice to see someone is actually driving the change and not just saying they do. Actually, I think this sums it up pretty well:

    “For companies that don’t truly believe in the primacy of the customer, all the Twitter and Facebook and blogs and YouTube in the world won’t change their fortunes.”

    If companies are “social” just because they are on Facebook/Twitter, then I guess everyone who has a pen is a writer.

  • Marie Josee Gagnon

    This example is perfect to show what is a social business. It shows how differently the employees should be trained and how much judgment is now required… Thanks!

  • brianfidler

    only on Southwest!

  • kathysacks

    Love Southwest.

  • summerjoy

    Awesome to see that happen. Love that she wasn’t doing it because she thought someone was watching and it would somehow help her career.  ”The rich get richer.”  Love it. PS. next time you are in Ft. Lauderdale, lets hang out! A couple times a years is just not nearly enough ;)

  • rivierascot

    @jaybaer very true Jay. Thd merging of virtual rep and real-word rep even today appears to be missed by a good deal corner office dwellers.

  • njh287

    @jaybaer RE- Social Pros podcast; guest didn’t value virality/sharing on SM. ‘About Page’ should also have a ‘share’ or ‘recommend’ feature!