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Digital Service Design: Booking a flight via Twitter.

I made a mistake. I booked a flight half a year in advance and forgot one ticket. The ticket for my little daughter.

When booking the tickets for a trip to Paris, our plan was to leave our daughter with their grand parents for a few days. But as the date of the trip came closer, we realized that we wanted to take her with us. I needed to add another ticket to our booking. Easier said than done.

Kids starring at their mobile devices while waiting in a Singapore retail shop. Service Design must encompass the preferred communication channels of customers.
Businesses need to go where their (future) customers are.

Helpdesk? Number not available…

Being a Digital Native, my first place to go was the airline’s website I’m used to using digital self service processes – it’s actually my preferred way to take care of my tasks. I usually avoid calling phone numbers for tasks like that, if I can.

Adding a free ticket for a toddler to an existing booking is what we call an Edge Case – a task that only very few people need to complete. It would have been easy to add another (regular) ticket to my booking online. The feature to add a free ticket (no actual seat on the plain, only airport taxes and service charges) for a child simply didn’t exist on the airline’s website.

Thinking about my other options, calling the airline’s helpdesk came to my mind. As I said – I hate making phone calls to companies. I realized, I had to bite the bullet.

So… I tried calling Airfrance’s phone helpdesk about four times, spending a long time stacked in the call. I even tried calling them at different hours of the day. When I finally got through to the helpdesk, the call was interrupted after some minutes. What a frustrating experience!

I’d almost considered skipping the whole trip, when I had an idea: Twitter! I immediately visited Air France’s Twitter account and addressed a public tweet to them, outlining my needs. It took only a couple of minutes, until I received their reply:

Service design magic – a tweet gets the ball rolling

My initial tweet almost completely did the job for me. I only had to responded using a private message (not publicly visible) to send my booking reference to Air France.

The airline’s social media team continued to inform me about every subsequent step via Twitter. About 3 hours after my initial tweet I received the additional ticket.

Getting there (excluding the painful first attempts using the website or the phone helpdesk) worked like a charm. No sign-in, no need to state my payment details. The team connected all the dots behind the scenes. After all, they had my payment details and anything else they needed from my initial booking already.

It’s Service Design magic

After this short process, unwinding entirely via Twitter direct messages, the airline confirmed the additional booking via tweet and e-mail.

This service design experience left a lasting impression on me. This is an excellent example of how Service Design can transform customer contact and customer experience. Super easy, personal, direct and convenient. I did not have to worry a thing about the complex processes going on in the background.

It’s called “Earned Media” for a reason

Digital Service Design is all about making things as easy and direct for customers as possible. Enabling clients to choose their preferred channel when communicating with the company is an integral part of this idea.

True customer centricity is all about enabling customers and thus adapt internal processes and systems to give them the freedom to choose their preferred way and media of reaching out to a company.

Businesses who aim for offering good service design experience to their customers need to take care of all relevant communication channels in real time. Simply put, they need to go where their clients are – and that’s increasingly in social media and messenger services, like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Signal. Even text messages – the mother of all messenger services – still must not be forgotten. All of these channels mean easy, direct and convenient communication to customers with companies.

Seamless service design experiences require complex actions and processes behind the scenes. It’s the art of Service Design to hide this complexity and convince with quick, accurate and friendly responses and solutions. For businesses who successfully master this art, there’s the highest praise, free word-of-mouth marketing and customer loyalty:

The praise must be deserved.

This article was originally published for (in german)

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