Have you created a way for a wide range of interested customers to appreciate what you do?

The reality is this should be common sense if you have a company or organization that has a wide range of clients and followers. But I would contend that most places of business seek to hit one age bracket and hope to do just enough right to keep the others in tow. A good example of this is when McDonald’s rebranded to accommodate a hipper crowd and introduced the McCafe concept. It took a little getting used to, but my dad and his friends were still able to get there seniors’ coffee and gossip in the corner all morning. And they did not give up the play area for the kids; mom and dad were just able to get their Big Mac’s in a cooler setting.

Not all places can make this transition well. Especially the big bloated companies of old that may still believe they have cornered the market.


I had a great conversation about this with some elderly friends recently. The one was considering how she would approach Air Canada about getting taken for a ride on their bereavement pricing. The ‘young man’ on the phone sounded like he was distracted and quoted an exorbitant price. She is computer literate enough to have looked up the market price on the same flight while still on the phone and mentioned how his price was far higher. Confused, she left it as is until she received her confirmation. It read ‘Wait List’. For a bereavement flight at premium pricing?

So, she called in again, and got someoene who was a little more attentive. The representative kindly told my friend that bereavement was not even mentioned on the booking. The original rep did not take the time to even take the correct information down, nevermind booking the flight appropriately. When she asked if the flight could be changed or the price altered, they simply told her they could only give a credit for the new year.

After sharing the story, she wondered what the best approach would be so they would not take her flight away or treat her badly. Too late, they already did, I believe was my response. She wanted to write a carefully crafted letter. “Not a bad idea”, I said, “But that will take a long time.”

“You should tweet about it” As I said it I realized I was speaking a different language. I explained…

“This is a different era of customer service. They could treat you badly, but they are more afraid of you than you know. Customer service is all about quick turnover and everyone having a voice an immediate voice in advertising because it is all social. You speak, they listen, and many others hear the conversation. Good or bad.”


“Do you want me to tweet about it and see how quickly they respond? Don’t worry, you won’t get in trouble.” I smiled.

I then went on to describe how other good companies with quick response times I had dealt with over Twitter, and how many issues were resolved in minutes, as opposed to waiting on hold with them for hours. (MTS, Shaw, City of Winnipeg, etc. etc.)

So I tweeted with Air Canada. 12 hours later I realized some companies are not ready for the social media they hope to embrace. Nor are they ready to interact with all levels of customers, regardless of competency or age. The end of my conversation with Air Canada was simple and without apology: She needs to call our representatives, we cannot call out, and our platforms do not communicate.

I told them that was humorous, and mentioned to my friend that she should continue crafting her letter, as it fit the company she was dealing with.

When I reflected on what had happened over the time it took to hear the story and offer a solution, it occurred to me just how bad a customer experience this actually was. And there are plenty of lessons to be learned for all kinds of situations in life:

  1. Dignity – The first representative preserved none. Knowing he was speaking with an elderly person reserving a flight for bereavement purposes should have put him in a different gear. He dropped the ball.
  2. Ease of access – Why would it be so hard to talk to the right people who can make worthwhile decisions for the very customers you are trying keep?
  3. Hardwired thinking – Your twitter people cannot talk to your phone people? You are unable to get the right person to call out to make an obvious wrong into a right? I think ‘unwilling’ is more accurate.
  4. Retention comes with care – When your system feels more like a maze, and there is no guide that tells me you care, then I will return the favour.

At the end of the day, plenty of other airlines were mentioned in our follow-up conversation, and they all sounded pretty good.

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