“Chris Brogan: If I was an airline CEO.” Exclusive video interview with the social media mogul

Once in a while, I get a chance to meet a person who totally knows what he’s talking about, and the world knows what he’s talking about too. Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan on Twitter) is such a man.

In this exclusive interview, Chris Brogan, the social media mogul (yeah, not just any guru, but a mogul) is put in the hotseat of an airline CEO. He shares with us what he’d do to run the airline, how he’d implement Web 2.0 strategies at the airline to build the brand and how he’d make them work for the airline and for the customer.

As the CEO of an airline, Chris Brogan would…

Optimize customer service – by providing virtual concierge service

In the past, operational optimization has been the name of the game. But Chris has a different take on the running of an airline – focus on providing customer service.

“Now, there’s a need to understand that customer service is an opportunity house, not a cost center. Use social media to reach people where they are, to give them what they’re asking for, to forge a new relationship that goes beyond my gates, my dates and my planes.”

Tap on social media for short term and long term

Though relationship building can be a long-drawn affair, it’s the “status updates” on various social networks that Chris sees as an opportunity. When someone Tweets that he “feels like going to Thailand for a holiday” or updates a Facebook or LinkedIn status about an upcoming business trip to New York, that’s an opportunity for an airline to reach out and engage this person. And engagement here means more than just selling.

Start by listening, acting fast, then engaging…

Chris believes that if he was an airline CEO, he’d start listening to what his potential customers are saying and where they’re saying it. He’ll then act fast to engage them, and experiment different ways to provide value to them. And that’s the benefit of using social media – its flexibility of use.

Chris Brogan dishes out very practical and implementable advice on how airlines can build stronger brands, provide customer service and drive sales using social media. Watch the full un-cut video below, for this very intriguing, yet entertaining interview on airline branding and social media. My favorite part of the interview is at 8:31 mins, where Chris tells us what he’d do tomorrow, to get started.

Let’s discuss if what Chris is talking about is do-able or not for an airline today. And if it is indeed practical, then why aren’t airlines doing it? Let’s discuss in the comments or over on Twitter (@simpliflying)

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Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco.Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others.Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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Showing 14 comments
  • Vijay Sankaran
    Reply

    Shashank, Thanks for sharing this invaluable interview. It applies to all businesses esp in the high-touch services sectors. Wish you could play it to the CEO of Air India:-)

  • Dean Holmes
    Reply

    Chris: Well put… like the part about a pull strategy, plays well with crowds that want to be activated in this manner.

    I also believe that using technology, outside of the Social Platforms, could bring this industry out of issues, such as knowing the caller’s persona when they call, based on the profiles in their Frequent Flyer Programs for a more relevant user experience BEFORE they get on the plane to begin the experience.

    Cloud Computing will do this, and a few other technologies that I know of…

    Great interview.

  • Jessica Murray
    Reply

    Great interview, I wish every CEO could see this and take note of how important it is to engage their customers where the customers are at. I also like that you mentioned how companies should take ownership and keep these social media accounts within their copmany and not outsourcing these jobs to people who truly know the company message.

  • Sumit Roy
    Reply

    Great interview.

    A ten minute course on Social Marketing.

    Something boardrooms all across the world should be watching.

    Great editing, Shashank.

    Now. Are Chris’ suggestions implementable by all airlines?

    Not to those who want to fill up the seats on their planes now. They won’t have the patience to “start by listening”. And yet, if they don’t implement it, they will have less customers to want to get on their planes later.

  • Ron Kuhlmann
    Reply

    He was a very convincing spokesperson for social media and delineated many of the potential advantages of these new tools. Unfortunately, what works in some venues is far less effective in others. He spoke of using these tools as CEO of an international airline but made no reference to the fact that such an effort then must be undertaken in multiple languages and across borders with vastly different levels of technological expertise. Furthermore, while I like his push/pull reference, I suspect that there is no valid cost/benefit model for searching for people saying they want to go to Singapore online. How many times have each one of us said I’d like to go there or do that, with the clear understanding that we are expressing a wish rather than reality.

    While I have long advocated the idea that airlines need to pay attention to what is being said about them, few if any are equipped to deal with a widely disseminated comment on Skytrax that begins “I am a premium member and…” Until carriers figure out how to deal with the ire of their best customers, they have little excuse to chase a possible future client.

    Two other things. While substantial, the number of people actually using social media remains a small subset of the population and if efforts are skewed in that direction, most passengers will remain unattended to. Secondly, the investment in efforts to gain new passengers and to right real or perceived wrongs needs to be backed by programs and staff that can actually deliver on the promise–probably a much more substantial investment and one in which most carriers are already performing at substandard levels.

    Good interview but I suspect that his airline would fare no better than all the rest in the current environment.

    • Shashank Nigam
      Reply

      @Ron, I appreciate your critical take on the issue. And you do bring up a couple of valid points. But the fact remains that a social media strategy can add wings to the traditional marketing processes of an airline. Giving them more bang for their buck and helping them spread their brand further, more efficiently.

      Hence, as ex-RyanAir Chairman Patrick Murphy told a hall full of airline executives yesterday in Maimi, “If you don’t get social media, social media will come and get you.” And I’d take his word on that.

  • Ron Callari
    Reply

    Shashank, excellent interview of Chris Brogan. Interesting point made by Brogan that he would start at th Customer Service level, as Frank Eliason from ComcastCares has done an excellent job in engaging customers at that level both from a service and information exchange point of view.

    You’re also very proficient at filming and editing YouTube. I’ll need to take a lesson from or two from you. Great job!

    Regards, Ron Callari
    http://twitter.com/roncallari
    http://twitter.com/INNsocialmedia

  • Ronald Kuhlmann
    Reply

    He was a very convincing spokesperson for social media and delineated many of the potential advantages of these new tools. Unfortunately, what works in some venues is far less effective in others. He spoke of using these tools as CEO of an international airline but made no reference to the fact that such an effort then must be undertaken in multiple languages and across borders with vastly different levels of technological expertise. Furthermore, while I like his push/pull reference, I suspect that there is no valid cost/benefit model for searching for people saying they want to go to Singapore online. How many times have each one of us said I’d like to go there or do that, with the clear understanding that we are expressing a wish rather than reality.

    While I have long advocated the idea that airlines need to pay attention to what is being said about them, few if any are equipped to deal with a widely disseminated comment on Skytrax that begins “I am a premium member and…” Until carriers figure out how to deal with the ire of their best customers, they have little excuse to chase a possible future client.

    Two other things. While substantial, the number of people actually using social media remains a small subset of the population and if efforts are skewed in that direction, most passengers will remain unattended to. Secondly, the investment in efforts to gain new passengers and to right real or perceived wrongs needs to be backed by programs and staff that can actually deliver on the promise–probably a much more substantial investment and one in which most carriers are already performing at substandard levels.

    Good interview but I suspect that his airline would fare no better than all the rest in the current environment.

  • Ron Kuhlmann
    Reply

    I have no dispute with the growing importance of social media. I have spoken on it at a number of conferences and have noted that any company that ignores either the positive or negative input of social media does so at their peril. Where we part company is in the sweeping effects that you imply will accompany the implementation of a social media campaign.

    If you look at a site like Skytrax, you will find that the vast majority of reviews for most US carriers are incredibly poor and that those for the likes of Singapore and Cathay are 99% favorable. In other words the social media input is generally a reflection of the overall corporate performance and it is rooted in the alignment of expectations and performance. People expect a lot from Singapore and generally they get it while the expectations of American, for instance, are much lower and yet they still fail to perform in many cases.

    Social media can report on reality, sometimes accurately, sometimes not, but it has done little to change the reality on which it reports. That is a function of management, staff attitude and corporate culture–internal stuff. Good companies of any sort will use the input of customers to revise and refine rough edges on the product. Being a part of the social media scene is the easy part but the real benefit comes from the wise and measured use of that information. Most airlines fail in the application aspect, especially those who need the improvement the most. Check out the newly released J.D. Power study on North American airlines to see how poorly most of those carriers have done in using customer data for improvement.

  • Patrick Murphy
    Reply

    I share Ron Kuhlman’s views. Social media has a role but you can’t run an airline or create a turnaround in performance by just using social media. Let’s exploit social media but don’t believe it is the answer to all the problems.

    Patrick

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