When Giants Tip Toe #Leadership #Social

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We are all tiny giants walking through this world creating ripples with far reaching and unknown impact.

It is a struggle to know if the decisions we make will have a positive impact or a negative one.  We can’t predict the future, but we can realize that we are all giants.    The world is becoming smaller through technology and each of us individually is becoming larger.  Today we have more ability to reach and impact millions of people with very little effort.

In 4 minutes and 4 seconds Candace Payne made over a million people laugh by wearing a Chewbacca mask and laughing throughout the video.  Not only did she do that, she set off a sales and marketing blitz for the retailer Kohls .

Of course this is a good news story for this family and Kohl’s.   It is proof that (if you need any) that social media, the internet, and interconnected media shrinks the distance between us.  It also means that we can get crushed by the same effect.

Big Mistakes by Big Players

Anyone with a connected device could impact millions of people with something interesting, funny, brilliant or otherwise compelling.   If this is the case, why do so many companies make critical mistakes with social media?

These companies are aware of the opportunities to the extent that they experience them but they aren’t aware of the opportunities in the sense of creating them.  Under these conditions they are trying to “tip toe” carefully while using the social digital space as a walking stick.   Under these conditions, they seek to “be social” but with carefully controlled messaging.   The underlying issue with this is that they are already social, but social can’t be controlled, it can only be influenced.   The influence occurs through natural human interaction.   How many CEO’s have I/O psychologists readily on hand?  Instead they look at data and what they call sentiment analysis.    This by itself is a mistake and it is akin to removing a splinter with a hatchet.   Giants think they need giant things and giant solutions, but the reality is they need small solutions and small tweaks.   The reason is that small things in a giant world have large impacts.

Retired General Stanley Mcchrystal said, “I would tell my staff about the dinosaur’s tail: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.”

Carefully Well Thought Out Poor Decisions

How much did it cost Kohl’s for the four minute social wave of marketing?   In 2012, it is estimated that Kohl’s spent 1.16 billion dollars.  In 2014, they spent an estimated 1.9 billion.    The underlying reason they spent more on advertising was “weak profitability. It is too early to tell what the “Candace Payne effect” is, but it cost them around $5,000 (they gave Candace $2500, 10,000 reward points, and Star Wars toys for her kids) and that was by their choice.   In other words, Kohl’s was smart to respond but they didn’t have to because they were mentioned as a natural part of the conversation.

There is a lot to think about here.  For example, what if Kohl’s turned their advertising budget into enhancing the customer experience?   What if Kohl’s goal was to “create a shopping experience that made people happy?”    I am not knocking Kohl’s, I am just stating that they are solving the wrong problem precisely.   Another great example to consider is the Giant air carrier United Airlines.

United Airlines sent me a very personalized message signed by their CEO Oscar Munoz.

UA

 

There are many things wrong with this message.   The message could have been sent out generically without the personalized touch.   Marketing experts may tell you that x percent of people respond better when their names are put in a message, but that is nonsense.   People respond to kindness, honestly, integrity, humility and reality to start.   It is not reality to think that UA cares about my business.  If you think I am being too harsh, consider that United Airlines is ranked worst by a J.D. Power customer survey .   You see “all about the data” can go many ways.    What did Oscar say in his personal message to me that would make a difference?   Can I reach Oscar to respond to his personal message to me?   Let’s find out.. 

United Response “My name is NO.. my number is No”

CustomerCare@united.com <customercare@united.com>

May 20 (2 days ago)

to me
Dear Mr. Cohen:
I am truly sorry for any poor experiences you have recently had with
United.

I know in the past years it has been quite painful to travel with
United.  As an employee I agree with you, but Mr. Munoz has brought
great change. We have been improving the morale of all employees and in
turn have created a wonderful customer experience for all of our
customers.  We do hope you allow us to show you how we improved and
continue your loyalty with us.

Mr. Cohen, we appreciate your comments and look forward to serving you
again.

Regards,

Matthew Miguel
Executive Services, United Airlines
Corporate Customer Care
Case: 10376324

Original Message:
To: Munoz, Oscar
Subject: Message CX

Dear Oscar,

I received your message today and I don’t think your  message really means anything.  In fact,  I don’t know what you are doing to energize your employee base but I do know this.

Getting to the plane is painful.
Being uncomfortable while waiting for the plane is painful.
Getting on the plane is painful.
Sitting on the plane is painful.
Getting asked to pay extra at every turn is painful.
Moving reservations is painful.
The frustration pouring out of people in the airport and on the plane is
painful.

The whole experience together makes it simple for me to travel in that
since airlines don’t differentiate themselves any longer in any way, I
can just choose the lowest cost and be miserable for the duration of my
travel.
If you have questions, please feel free to reach out.

Best Regards,
Howard Cohen

My Interpretation

 

Dear Mr. Cohen:
I am truly sorry for any poor experiences you have recently had with
UnitedI am sorry that we wrote you. 

I know in the past years it has been quite painful to travel with
United.  I have no idea what happened to you or your experience with United but I am just going to tell you that “I get it”  and hopefully that will be enough. 

As an employee I agree with you, but Mr. Munoz has brought
great change.   I agree with you.   I can’t say anything else beyond that because I am in customer service.   Mr. Munoz has brought great change and change is good because change means change. 

We have been improving the morale of all employees and in
turn have created a wonderful customer experience for all of our
customers.  We are improving morale through our efforts of change and we have created a wonderful experience for customers <– in past tense as if this was something that happened and not in present tense as something that is happening. 

We do hope you allow us to show you how we improved and
continue your loyalty with us.  You probably aren’t going to fly with us anytime soon. 

Mr. Cohen, we appreciate your comments and look forward to serving you
again.  Did you actually think in small giant feeble mind that Oscar Munoz the CEO of the company would read your message?  You aren’t even a very frequent flyer, why would you matter?   Thanks for the laugh and enjoy my generic response.  

Regards,

Matthew Miguel
Executive Services, United Airlines
Corporate Customer Care
Case: 10376324

Only Time Will Tell

In 2010 Forbes Lee E. Ohanian said that “Recent lessons indicate that once an industry starts to get big through mergers and acquisitions, it is hard to change course. And this may well be bad news for both travelers and taxpayers.”   (http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/11/airlines-merger-economy-opinions-contributors-lee-ohanian.html)

The reality though is that airlines are thinking about ways to cram more folks into the plane.   Flying me to Cuba in a box while I am hibernating or strapping my feet to the floor while I stand in the subway isle of the aircraft isn’t going to be interesting to me.    I predict more challenges for United.

Summary

Every connected person is part of the digital ecology.   We are giants and our small actions will have long lasting effects.  The days of leadership from the ivory tower are not over but we are moving more towards a complicated hive network topology between corporate employees and customers alike.   What does change really mean?   Consider that whether you walk with a flat foot or tip toe through the network, you will have an impact on the ecosystem, your presence will be felt and we are all “leaders from where we are.”

As an FYI, I did follow up with United after their response and never heard back from them.   I don’t have unreasonable expectations, but it is clear that they are struggling with their social strategy.

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2 thoughts on “When Giants Tip Toe #Leadership #Social

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Top down managerial styles have to die before large corporations realize there are “people” involved, both employees and customers. What happened to the concept of people.

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  2. Couldn’t agree more. Top down managerial styles have to die before large corporations realize there are “people” involved, both employees and customers. What happened to the concept of people?

    Companies have always benefited by employee loyalty but corporation have chosen to ignore it. People are loyal to corporation that are loyal to them. It’s really not that complicated.

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