Customer Service: The Heart of Social Business

This is a photo of Robert Carbone. Robert is an employee of Alpha Flight Guru and assists Mighty Media Group in arrange travel for Stephenie Rodriguez.

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In my honest opinion, effective customer service is always going to be at the heart of any successful social business. A company can deploy robust CRMs, create mobile loyalty programs that integrate with mobile wallets, implement Ipads in airports for brand play and ordering, and build 300 screen social command centres that look sexy on CNN but at the end of the day, how effective a company or brand is going to be at engaging with consumers comes down to the same core values that companies had to rely on before the digital dawning of Aquarius — employing good people who genuinely care.

This is a photo of Robert Carbone. Robert is an employee of Alpha Flight Guru and assists Mighty Media Group in arrange travel for Stephenie Rodriguez. Robert Carbone – Customer Service Agent Extraordinaire
 
Front line employees who know what the digital playbook spells out as the winning moves, buys into it, has an upside and feels that they can directly impact their companies reputation and commercial health are going to be more likely to do their fair share to protect and support their team — provided they feel like they are a real part of it’s success. Here’s why…

As many of those who follow me on Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Tumblr or Instagram know, I travel, ALOT.

As a consultant to travel retail companies such as James Richardson Duty Free, travel food & beverage companies like SSP – The Food Travel Experts,  most recently becoming involved as a speaker and facilitator for ACI (Airports Council International) Small & Emerging Airports in Guam, and being invited to give a presentation at TFWA (Tax Free World Association Expo in Singapore has sent me all over the world and back. In the last four years I have racked up a significant amount of air miles, eaten my fair share of bad airplane food,  gone through the woeful news of lost luggage and was even victim to an online travel scam that left me stranded on the streets on London on my birthday with no place to stay.
 
The biggest part of my travel stress doesn’t come once I have left my office, it usually starts when I attempt to plan my trip, manage airports, find airplanes with in seat power for productivity, and reduce my layover times or stops in airports that don’t have free wi-fi or a decent lounge associated with my frequent flyer programs.
 
Although I have  experienced the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with the magnificent views I often life stream in my tweets, posts and Instagrams I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love my job, my clients and seeing a great idea help both my clients achieve their commercial successes and fellow travellers like me have a better more digitally connected, pleasant and less stressful journey.  Despite the enormous jet lag that goes with timezone cloud surfing and the missing of my family, I love the sense of wonder I get every time I embark on a journey despite the fact that most of mine aren’t for leisure.
 
October, as aforementioned was no exception and probably my most hectic month. Melbourne, Sydney and Dubai via Singapore, home again via Singapore, four days at home and then a 36 hour airbus ride to get to Guam in time for sound checks and a conference presentation, a circuitous trek home stopping in three domestic Australian airports.  Five days at working at home then finally another twenty-six hour trek to begin ten intense days of networking in Cannes for the TFWA via Sydney, Bangkok, Paris (SDG), Nice and a bus ride.
 
Most recently I started using a travel agent that I have never met. I found their website via a Google search for good fares to Guam (the United flight is once a week from Cairns and very hard to find if you don’t know they fly there!) Because of their great pricing, I bought two big trip tickets from Alpha Flight Gurus and dealt with a really lovely girl named Anna. Anna was not only responsive to emails, but would also call me on my cell phone and check my preferences, email me inflight seat pictures and details on carriers with whom I was not familiar with their inflight offering and even recommendations of in airport activities. She was awesome at customer service.
 
After a week into the TFWA and my fare share of tax free festivities, I developed an enormous case of homesickness for my family and tremendous jet lag.  When I felt I was hitting the jet lag wall rendering me unproductive I immediately emailed customer service at Alpha Flight Guru, and got two responses – one from the person who had taken over Anna’s accounts and another colleague – Robert Carbone. Cutting my early travel teeth in a Washington DC Travel agency as Director of Diplomatic Sales in the 90s, I did recall that travel agents make commissions on tickets they book, not bookings they manage or take over from another agent. Robert stepped in and despite our time challenges (he is based in California)  and at the time I was in France, he felt my angst of wanting to get home and assisted me with a sense of urgency. Because of the need for multiple flights and connections, he worked extremely diligently to source airlines that I could apply my revenue to and have the least amount of layovers including pulling an late-nighter and working until 2am. Robert took customer service to a level I rarely experience in digital employees who are not directly customer facing. He turned a faceless, voiceless commercial transaction into a relationship.
 

In the  final stages of securing my flights and seats he gave me his personal mobile number and then proceeded to text me to confirm that I was aware that I needed to be at the airport with just 8 hours notice appreciating that it was 3am in Cannes and I was unlikely to be reading email.  I think when I got the text message in my half asleep state I was I so grateful I professed undying affection and my second born child.
 
Thirty-six hours and five flights later I arrived home to find an email from him asking about the journey and wanting to ensure I had made it safely home. When I asked him how I could thank him for his exceptional customer service, he said “Just tweet it.”
 
Whilst Robert was probably just being a great employee of Alpha Flight Guru, he didn’t miss my digital email signature that indicated that I was a Twitter user. He took the opportunity to create an advocate relationship with me on the merit of his amazing customer service and my propensity to share. He took that ultimate moment of truth and he smashed it out of the park. Well done and well played!
 
So, this one is for you Robert. A huge thank you. A good online social reputation begins and ends with good employees delivering remarkable products or services, especially in the era of peer product review websites where potential customers are doing due diligence. Robert delivered exceptional service and if you need an agent who will go the extra mile, email him Robert at Alphaflightguru.com and tell him I sent you.
 
Got an amazing travel agent story  – please share it in the comment box. Random winners will be selected to win a fabulous travel centric treat from me from BagTagDesign.com – we also love them too!

AUTHOR’s NOTE: I am in no way compensated or commercially rewarded for the mention of any brands, airlines or products by comments made within this post.

About the Author

Stephenie Rodriguezstephenie rodriguez is the CEO of the Mighty Media Group a digital agency specialising in digital marketing strategy in Australia founded Mighty Media Group, a leading data-driven digital, mobile and social marketing strategy and solutions firm, in 2004 and is currently the company’s Chief Executive Officer. She is also the former publisher of Ocean Drive Magazine (Australia), a speaker and futurist on all aspects of social technology, an evangelist of engagement, and has advised companies including SSP – The Food Travel Experts, Club Med Asia Pacific,  Austereo, JR/DutyFree, Radar Group of Companies, Transfield, Allied Mills, Income Solutions, and Bayer (Berocca), Toyota, Mercedes Benz, and the UN FAO. You’re likely to find her Tweeting here @digitalgodess or present at events such as #SXSWi, #TFWA, #TedxSydney and #SocialBiz.


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  3. Have just read you dissertation re Robert Carbone of Alpha Flight Guru & would like to add my own experience in dealing with this amazing person in AFG.
    I have now done 2 trips using AFG. The first was from sydney to london return in Sept. 2013. I had booked 5 months previously & all looked well. However, less than 2 DAYS before I was due to leave ( I was travelling for the birth of our first grandchild )imagine my horror to find the ENTIRE RETURN TRIP had been cancelled !! Got on the phone to Robert Carbonne & things really got moving. Had my wife & I on another flight ( Cathay ) Business to Hong Kong the HK to London FIRST CLASS within 24 hrs. Left Brisbane the day I had booked to go out of Sydney ( I live near Brisbane ) & I arrived nicely in time to welcome the new family addition.Coming back I had a great choice of airlines offered & chose Thai. Last trip was early Jan this year to Ethiopia via Dubai. Get an email 4 hrs before our flight out that flights all cancelled !! Email 1 hr later had us on a circuitous route Bris – Sing. – Dubai the dubai – Addis Abbaba. Got there only 6 hrs later than previous booking!! Was even offered a FIRST Class option all the way over but this would have got us there too late to join the tour.Needed to get home as direct as possible so Addis – B/kok Business Ethiopian Air ( an experience ALL travelers should have) then B/kok to Bris. AFG paid for ALL extraneous expenses we had on sending the receipts & even gave us a “compensation for distress ” extra payment . Never had any real concern during the whole event. Robert was always available & constantly ensured we were updated with developments & all tickets were correctly issued.Could not fault AFG in any aspect of their conduct & professionalism.In fact, I am in the process of booking another Brisbane-London flight via Phuket on return in Sept. Just love this company & the deals it gets. While negative comments abound re the business model underpinning AFG this company is the REAL DEAL. Don’t go anywhere else.

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