Interview: Jon Bird from American Airlines on Social Customer Engagement

Jon Bird, has the curious title of “Creative Manager, Social Media” at American Airlines, yet when you hear him discussing how @americanair engages with the 250,000 customers that...

American Airlines Social Media

American Airlines Social Media

Jon Bird, has the curious title of “Creative Manager, Social Media” at American Airlines, yet when you hear him discussing how @americanair engages with the 250,000 customers that the airline flies every day, across multiple social media touch-points, managing over 35,000 online mentions,you quickly realise how creative he and his team have to be.

Not content with dealing with incoming queries, last week AA ran a Twitter engagement campaign where they asked customers “Tell us where you want to go and we’ll tweet you back with great #travel ideas!”  It was simple, but effective, and useful – I got a great tip for visiting Athens later this year.

American Airlines clearly “gets” social media marketing as well as the (sometimes tricky) crossover with engagement and customer care, so following on from my rather controversial post on econsultancy last week, I asked Jon Bird for his views on the “who should own social?” question, plus a few more testing issues. Here’s what he said:

Do you think an organisation’s primary social media channels should be managed by Marketing or Customer Service? (Or neither?)

It really depends on the organization. If the main goals and opportunities for Social within that organization are very consumer-centric or even revenue-focused, then it often makes sense for Social to be owned by Marketing. That being said, for most companies, Social has to have joint buy-in in terms of strategy and resource across multiple groups. Most organizations have the goal of building better relationships with customers, even if simply to know them better, and building relationships with your customers will usually require this kind of integration. The more impact that Social has, the more we may see companies move into a larger digital strategy group model, but again I think it will depend on the brand and the goals.

Are there things that Marketing could learn from Customer Service in relation to social media?

Absolutely. Social Media can allow a business to build stronger, measurable relationships with its customers, which in turn can help shape that business for the better. When you have a better relationship with your customers, you know them better and can adjust and adapt your business and provide better value, whether that be in terms of new offerings, better engagement, driving revenue, etc.

Where do you see the “pain points” being for organisations seeking to implement end-to-end social customer services?

I think the first one is cultural, but thankfully most businesses are realizing the value of building Social CR into their game plans internally. Social is also forcing businesses to build their teams in a very open, non-siloed fashion, requiring multiple departments to buy into these strategies and ultimately provide resources. That can be a challenge, but once overcome, it can provide immediate and powerful rewards.

Are strategies, tools or techniques you feel are particularly useful in helping companies to overcome these pain points?

Good case studies and evidence of success, a good Social leader who has strong vision and can sell the strategy very well internally, and an executive champion (or three). That’s a pretty good recipe for success.

 

For more details about Jon Bird and American Airlines’ use of social media for customer engagement, see his presentation from Social CRM 2011 New York.

We’ll be exploring the relationship between Customer Service and Marketing at The Social Customer 2012 in London on 29th March. There will be a keynote from Frank Eliason, SVP Social Media, Citibank, plus sessions with BT, British Gas, Marks & Spencer, Everything Everywhere. Tickets are available now on the website.

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3 comments

  1. Viewicle | Traditional CRM vs social CRM (Infographic) | Econsultancy Reply

    […] said, best practices are emerging. American Airlines has a highly developed social CRM strategy and is implementing it effectively both for marketing […]

  2. Customizing Your Connections with Donors and Volunteers | Brian Barela Reply

    […] “Social Media can allow a business to build stronger, measurable relationships with its customers, which in turn can help shape that business for the better. When you have a better relationship with your customers, you know them better and can adjust and adapt your business and provide better value, whether that be in terms of new offerings, better engagement, driving revenue, etc.”–Jon Bird, American Airlines […]