PR Week in the UK is running this story about the decision of Robin Kiely, Ryanair’s new head of comms to to dismiss the value of social media engagement. Is he right to do this? Absolutely, in my opinion. Ryanair is an organisation that has been hugely successful despite a studious disregard for customer service. I am fond of contrasting the corporate stories of Ryanair and easyJet. The story of the later is “you only pay for what you want” and the story of the former is “you only get what you pay for”. In this respect, Ryanair is being absolutely true to it corporate story.
Kiely is quoted in the article thus:
‘A Facebook account would not be helpful to us, as we would have so many people looking for a response.’
He called the social network a ‘two-way tool’ and said maintaining a dedicated account would probably mean ‘hiring two more people just to sit on Facebook all day’.
‘If customers want to get in touch, the methods are there,’ he added, referring to the brand’s customer care line.
Spot on. A dedicated Facebook account would mean hiring two people just to sit on Facebook all day. For most organisations this would be a productive use of two people’s time because: a) it would demonstrate that the organisation takes its customers seriously and, b) it would provide the organsiation with valuable intelligence about what its customers want. But Ryanair is not ‘most organisations’. It is the exception which proves the rule when it comes to customer service.
In many ways this approach to social media is less insulting, and less ineffective, than the approach of many organisations who simply outsource the management of their Facebook presence to an agency, At least Kiely recognises that you need to put dedicated people onto managing Facebook, and better to promote the customer care line upfront, rather than respond to Facebook enquiries with a standard “Thanks for you question, please call our customer care line on this number” response.
Co-incidentally, Rynair was discussed in the SMTLive webinar on ‘Marketing and Customer Service’ organised by Social Media Today on Tuesday – i.e. before Kiely’s statement. You can download the audio here. It was a good session (as have been all the recent SMT webinars in recent weeks – I recommend you sign-up). I think it was either Frank Eliason (he of former @ComcastCares fame) or Carol Borghesi who made the point that effective customer service is all about being “true to who you are.” And that, or course, is exactly is what Ryanair is doing.
(But I would still always prefer to fly easyJet – provided, of course, that they can get me where I want to go, when I want to go there, from an airport I want to fly from, at a competitive price. And therein lies the rub.)