I’ve made a mistake.

I’ve hastily booked a flight for me and my wife, six months in advance.
Also, I’ve wrongly been assuming that our daughter would easily be staying with my parents for a couple of days by then.

Long story short: I needed to add another flight ticket to my booking.

Well, that’s easier said than done.

Help desk? Please hold the line …

As a digital native, the first thing that came to my mind was to visit the Airline’s website airfrance.com. I am a big fan of online self care services and absolutely willing to manage stuff by myself.

But booking an additional ticket for a one and a half year old is not an option on the website, since it’s a ticket without an actual seat, requiring only minor payments for airport taxes and service fees. It took me a while, to realize that the website didn’t provide any helpful options for my problem …

As a next step, I took the old fashioned approach and tried to call help desk to talk to a service person. I usually try to avoid this, if possible.

Freitag helpdesk Zurich von Bart van Poll

I gave up after trying to get through about four times. Despite trying to call during different times in the day and holding the line for about 20 minutes, I just couldn’t reach anyone – and the only time someone picked up, the call was interrupted a couple of minutes later.

That experience was really frustrating, especially since calling help desk is quite costly and takes a lot of time.

Finally I had another idea: What about Twitter?! In no time, I visited Air France’s Twitter profile and composed a short tweet about my problem. It didn’t take any longer than a couple of minutes before I had an answer:

It’s magic – a single tweet solved my problem

Writing a single tweet was almost all of the work I had to do, to get my additional flight ticket booked. After Air France’s reply to my initial tweet, I did as they asked and sent my booking reference via direct message (not public).

Using direct messages, Air France contacted me a few times for details and confirmations. About three hours after my initial tweet the additional ticket was booked and paid.

The best thing about it: It didn’t take me long to get it done. I spent the evening at a coffeehouse with friends, just checking my phone from time to time. It wasn’t necessary to sign in or state my payment details, since the airline already had the data from my first booking.

Digital Service Design: A sketch of touchpoints to ordering an airplane ticket via Twitter

At the end of the short process (entirely carried out via direct messages – at least for my part), the airline confirmed the booking of the ticket via tweet and e-mail.

I found this experience to be a very impressive example for successful service design and customer communication: openly accessible, personal, direct and super convenient. As a customer, I didn’t have to worry about any complexity going on behind the scenes.

It’s called “earned media” for a reason

Simple and direct communication is certainly trending in service design: As convenient as possible, through the channels prefered by the customer.

Customer orientation also means to let customers choose how they want to communicate with the company, instead of restricting communication to certain channels.

That’s why it’s crucial for true customer-centric companies, to offer any media channel that is relevant for their clients. Messaging services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Signal are increasingly important for customer communication. But also the use of plain, old text messaging – the “mother” of recent messaging services – is far from dead. All these services share the qualities of enabling easy and accessible points of contact as well as direct and convenient communication. What’s happening behind the scenes is far more complex.

Realtime processes and centralization of customer data need to be provided in order to deliver seamless experiences. What really counts for customers is the result – and to get there conveniently and without encountering any obstacles. If the company manages to deliver these kinds of experiences, praises, free “word of mouth” marketing and customer bonding can be the rewards:  

 

Philipp Brunner works as a user experience designer at dmcgroup in Vienna.

The title photo „Cyberclub“ was taken by the author on the above-mentioned trip to Paris.
The photo „Freitag helpdesk Zurich“ was uploaded to Flickr by user Bart van Poll.