Back in early January, a regional bicycling publication BikePortland.org in Portland, Oregon covered the saga of a JetBlue customer who was charged $50 for checking his bike as baggage. The customer, and BikePortland.org, thought JetBlue’s baggage policy regarding bikes was out of line. The unhappy JetBlue customer had worn himself out complaining via e-mail and phone and had been told this was policy and nothing could be done about it. But when BikePortland.org tweeted a link to its article on Twitter, Morgan Johnston, Manager of Corporate Communications for JetBlue Airways saw it.
"When I saw the link come up on Twitter, I followed the story first from their article and then to an article [by the JetBlue customer] at BTA4bikes ," says Johnston. "It was clear to me that the policy needed clarification. So, after a quick flurry of talks internally, we were able to clarify our policy, communicate that internally, and reach out through e-mail and Twitter to inform [BikePortland and the unhappy customer] that we had updated our policy." This all happened within 24 hours of the Tweet that got Johnston's attention.
Not every company has a team of people dedicated to staffing Twitter and other social media complaints the way Comcast, Mozy, and other companies I've spoken to for this series on social media do. For some companies, the effort is akin to keeping an ear to a listening post. In these cases, though, often the person -- or people -- tied to this listening post are in a more influential position than a customer service representative. In the case of JetBlue, the director of corporate communications was listening and was in a position to quickly clarify company policy when he saw a customer with a valid point. Because of the emerging nature of social media and how easy it is to simply tune in to the noise of the rabble, this might well be a common scenario in big companies.