Panic in the Aisles – Airborne Social Media Lessons

September 22nd, 2009

social media lessonsI was on a flight home from Kansas City last week when a bit of condensation apparently emitted from the air conditioning as we were preparing for take-off. A passenger shouted “there’s smoke in the plane” followed by a second passenger, then a third, etc.

The flight attendants were a bit stunned and immediately got on the phone to the flight deck (I was in 1D so I literally had a front row seat for this whole epic mishap). As they were talking to the captain, passengers kept shouting frantically, not realizing that the flight attendants had already heard them.

SOCIAL MEDIA LESSON: Even if you know you’re doing the right thing, if you don’t acknowledge a customer with a problem, they think you’re doing the wrong thing.

Finally, a flight attendant screamed “we hear you” and then evidently misconstrued the captain’s remarks too, because she stated on the public address system that a warning was going off in the cockpit, as well.

SOCIAL MEDIA LESSON: The “fog” of social media is real. It moves fast. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on around you. Communication can break down.

This of course created a bit of a panic (especially since we were already delayed leaving due to a broken navigation system). Captain Wilson stopped the takeoff, and we returned to the gate. Eventually, the captain explained that it was a false alarm, just condensation. But, nearly 20% of the entire plane grabbed their belongings and left.

SOCIAL MEDIA LESSON: I’m not sure about the “wisdom” of crowds, but people influence the behavior of their peers. What customers say about your company (regardless of how un/informed they are, or how unique their circumstance is), impacts potential customers’ perceptions more than anything you can ever do or say.

Ouch.

(photo by aralbalkan)

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