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The King of Good Times: A social media surprise from Kingfisher Airlines February 25, 2011

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Branding, Conversations, India, Social Media, Travel.
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10 comments

As an aviation geek & a social media marketing professional, I keep a close eye out on airlines that are blitzing the social media trail.

On last count, there are over 180 airlines on Twitter. Every airline worth their salt is on Facebook building communities and rewarding loyalty via contests.


What I love most about airlines that are doing social media right is: those who are using social media to listen to their customers and offer them delightful surprises. Such a rare experience happened to me last month, via Kingfisher Airlines.

Kingfisher Airlines, based out of India is one of the world’s seven airlines to be ranked as a 5-star airline by Skytrax. They fly to 63 domestic destinations and 8 international destinations with an Airbus & ATR fleet. Headed by one of India’s most flamboyant tycoons Dr Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher has built a strong brand for itself in service and quality over the years. It wouldn’t be unfair to call Kingfisher the Virgin America of Indian skies.

I have watched Kingfisher’s meteoric rise and often lamented the fact that I have never flown them, primarily because they don’t fly out of Muscat. Anyhow, a great opportunity to try Kingfisher for the first time came up last month and I decided to fly them outbound on Dubai-Bengaluru-Cochin and Chennai-Bengaluru-Dubai on my inbound leg.

Kingfisher is active on Twitter and as always, I tweeted before my departure that I was flying them. I received a reply from them asking me to enjoy their service. Quite the appropriate thing to do on social media, yes?

I arrive at Dubai Airport on the date of my departure, stood in a snaking queue of flustered passengers waiting to check-in. When my turn came, I noticed the check-in agent spend a few extra seconds looking at her screen and then proceeded to consult with her supervisor before handing me a complimentary Lounge Access card. Now, how great is that?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t check out the Lounge as I was running late for my flight, so I boarded the all economy A321 and we were soon wheels up to Bengaluru. After reaching cruising altitude, the cabin crew started meal service. I noticed that they rolled up the cart straight to where I was sitting (somewhere in the middle of the plane) and asked me “Mr Rajagopal, what would you like to have for dinner?”

That was an absolute stunner for me. I know in premium classes it is a practice for crew to know beforehand who they are serving, but moi flying in Y class (or cattle class as one prominent Indian politician once described the back of the bus)? The crew knew my name and that was an absolutely delightful surprise for me. They served me well & I sure got a few envious looks from around the cabin.

The 2 cabin crew members who worked my section would come up to me once in a while and ensure that I was all comfy. Nothing artificial, but a genuine and warm desire to serve well, which is sadly missing from a lot of airlines this day. Believe you me, these are the little, personal touches that make flying such a lovely experience for me.

When I inquired how the crew knew me by name, I was told that they were informed beforehand that I would be flying with them and was asked to take special care of me. Social media at work, yes? 🙂

I felt like the ‘king of good times’ as I thoroughly enjoyed my flight and didn’t forget to compliment Kingfisher in my feedback form (I believe they should look at the paper quality of the form as ball point pens don’t write well on them – minor detail, I know).

I landed early morning at Bengaluru and almost missed my connecting flight to Cochin due to a security snafu. I literally missed my bus to the plane. However, the kind people at Kingfisher got me ferried to the waiting ATR in their car just in time. I hopped on the plane and we were off. Trust me on this; they could have left without me. Will never forget the sight of an ATR waiting on the ground on a misty morning, the crew peeping out of the door and me diving into it with my rucksack pulling me back. Reminded me of how we jump into moving trains. Another big star from me.

Landed in Cochin and I was happy to let Kingfisher know that my flights went well and they DMed back wishing me a great time in India. (Almost sounds like a love affair, hmmm?)

So I spent the next couple of days train hopping across India (I think I spent 7 out of my 9 days sleeping on overnight trains). A week later, I was ready to make the hop back to Dubai. I was flying from Chennai and on my local train ride to the airport, I was wondering if I would have any similar surprises in store.

I was met by this very helpful Kingfisher ground staff who helped me with my bags. And I did make a note of how Kingfisher staff are generally polite, professional and courteous. You begin to feel that these people, whether they are at the low end or the high end of the line, are carefully cherry-picked to live a certain brand vision that leads to delighting customers.

Proceeded to check-in and gladly got my fav seat on an A321 which gives you humongous amounts of legroom. There were no surprises waiting for me at the check-in desk. Must say, I was slightly disappointed after all the pampering a week ago. I traipsed across the terminal towards a Maggi noodle stall and went on to ravenously chomp down a noodle bowl.

As I gulp through my noodles, I spot 2 Kingfisher staff make a beeline for me and I’m like – Uh Oh! Crew: Mr. Rajagopal, we were looking for you… So again, Kingfisher decided to make my day. Minutes later, I was escorted into a lounge at Chennai Airport (at this point was beginning to feel like royalty) and the staff promised to fetch me before boarding. Spent a good 30 minutes in the lounge and then she was back.  Trust me, nothing beats the experience of being chaperoned by a Kingfisher crew on the ground. I did manage to count a few envious looks and did I say I didn’t have to stand in a line for my security check? The lovely crew member hopped with me on the bus and literally dropped me at the door of the plane. My mind was flying at 35k feet by then.

The flight to Bengaluru went without incident. Must say, I liked my seat on the ATR in front of the plane which is the only row facing the rest of the seats. They are comfortable and you get a feeling of flying in a biz jet. Landed at Bengaluru and was at met at the door of the plane by another Kingfisher staffer. I know that at this point this is all sounding like a giant ego-fueled fairy tale. But then this gorgeous staffer walks me from the plane, takes me through immigration and security, mind you, no standing in queues again, you are introduced everywhere as a ‘guest’ and then proceeds to comfortably ensconce me in a premium lounge at the International Terminal.

I tuck into some fine Sauvignon Blanc, Paneer rolls and rum cake as I wait for my ‘Bus to Dubai. My ‘handler’ appeared again before boarding and walked me on the airbridge till my jet, bidding bye and safe travels.

Wheels up to Dubai, great food, much better than on the inbound leg, caught some shuteye and a perfect landing – didn’t even know if we touched ground, just floated in and came to a stop at the airbridge. As we deplaned, the Captain came out to say hello. A great ending to an awesome Kingfisher tale.

So what’s the summary of this whole experience? Just a fluffy piece singing a lot of praise in favor of Kingfisher for making the day of a planegeek? Well, they earned it and yes, a big thank you to them for giving me one of the best flights in my life.

Will Kingfisher roll out the same red carpet treatment to everyone who tweets to them about their journeys? Perhaps not. But have they won a loyal customer and strong brand evangelist in me. Definitely, yes.

To sign off, brands engaging in social media take off to a new level when they are able to consistently and creatively offer value, engagement and delightful surprises to their audience.  It all starts from caring to listen and daring to surprise. Amen!

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What can an 8-year old & social media teach Boeing about customer service? April 28, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Airlines, Branding, Conversations, Digital, Marketing, Social Media.
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4 comments

Image source: Harry Winsor’s Boeing Drawing

It never ceases to amaze me how small things lead to big actions. Especially in the world of social media.

Last evening, about 17 hours ago, I spotted this tweet by Paul McEnany. He was tweeting about Porter Airlines and then he tweeted

Speaking of airplanes – here’s a Boeing fail: http://bit.ly/aWpekl

I’m passionate about airlines and so I clicked on the URL and what I read made my jaw drop.

And then I tweeted about it. And also marked it to the attention of @simpliflying @RunwayGirl @AvWeekBenet, leading global aviation experts with an active social media presence.

Meanwhile, let me give you a quick background on this ‘Unbelievable customer service story from Boeing’. http://bit.ly/bJrABe

This story is about John Winsor’s @jtwinsor 8-year old son Harry who is a passionate aviation enthusiast. Harry sends a drawing of his airplane design to Boeing and the plane maker gets back to him with a ‘staid corporate response’. I recommend that you take a few minutes to read this blog post – Is Your Customer Service Ready for the New World of Openness? http://bit.ly/bJrABe

Here’s Boeing’s official response to Harry Winsor’s drawing.


(It seems @jtwinsor shared this experience to @edwardboches over dinner and he recommended that John blog about it).

Jon Ostrower, who is Flight International Magazine’s Aerospace Blogger @flightblogger was quick to take this up with Boeing in a tweet.

@boeingairplanes it might be time to rethink your standard form letter. http://bit.ly/aWpekl (via @arun4)

After which, I tweeted twice to @boeingairplanes

@flightblogger Absolutely. @boeingairplanes You are writing to a kid with passion. Where is your YOURS? You can get this right, still!

Dear @boeingairplanes If I were you, I’d fly this kid to your Museum of Flight. @flightblogger @simpliflying @jtwinsor http://bit.ly/bJrABe

@flightblogger ‘s tweet was then RTed a couple of times.

Couple of hours later, Boeing @Boeingairplanes responded directly to John Winsor’s blog post. Todd Blecher, who is Director of Communications at Boeing said in a comment:

Mr. Winsor,
I’m a Boeing communications director. I think I can address your comments. As you state, we have to respond to the thousands of unsolicited ideas we receive in a way that protects us against possible infringement claims. Having said that, we can do better when the idea clearly comes from a child as enthusiastic as your son. We will work on this. I hope Harry remains fascinated by airplanes and grows up to be an airplane designer. To help him and others like him we maintain the following website. http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/aboutus/wond…
I hope he enjoys it.

@BoeingCorporate also responded with a tweet on their Twitter account that said:

“The letter Mr. Winsor posted is, as he said, a required response. For kids, we can do better. We’ll work on it.”

It was a very smart move by Boeing to respond immediately and address the issue with a human touch. Boeing is now making very planned and prudent moves into the social media space. In this post, Ludo Van Vooren explores Boeing’s new communication strategy for new media engagement. (Very topical as it was published just last week!) And it seems that Todd Blecher is at the center of these efforts. Certainly Boeing is walking the talk.

The story doesn’t end there:

Alaska Airlines, whose drawing Harry Winsor created and sent to Boeing, wants to send him a special reward. @AirlineReporter had marked a copy of his tweet to @AlaskaAir asking them to have a look at Harry’s drawing. And they responded back via Twitter.

Sandy Ward at the Future of Flight Museum, Seattle @futureofflight wants to showcase Harry’s airplane drawing at a spot in their museum where they showcase innovative ideas and designs.

The story has been featured on Seattlepi, @piboeing a leading aerospace industry blog. And I’m sure it will be picked by others in the days to come.

And TV stations in Denver and Seattle would like to interview Harry Winsor on this story.

The big picture:

I believe that social media is more about being social, responsive and showing that you care, whatever the size or nature of your business. This goes beyond mere presence on social networks.

Ultimately, this should be the goal of all marketing communications – reaching out to the right target audience, listening to them and telling them what they would like to hear.

Kudos to Boeing for coming out in flying colors in their first test with social media. And kudos to Harry Winsor who will grow up knowing that he made a difference with his passion for airplanes.

Chipping for Oman at Dubai Twestival February 17, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Oman, Social Media, Travel.
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7 comments

The Dubai Twestival Tee
Dubai
was one of the 175 cities around the world to organize the Twestival on 12 February 2009. Nearly 150 Tweeters gathered at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi’s fab Barasti Bar for the Dubai Twestival @DubaiTwestival.

Dubai PR agency Spot On @spotonpr estimates that out of the 1,500 Twitter users in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), over 500 are based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Currently, UAE has the fastest growing Twitter audience in the region with over 20% per month. Considering that Twitter was banned in UAE till August 2008, these numbers are quite impressive.

With not more than 15 active Tweeters based out from Oman, we couldn’t have a Twestival in Muscat, so I decided to join the Twestival crowd at Dubai. Even more exciting for me was the fact that I drove down from Muscat to Dubai and back (my first time ever) – a distance of 800km.

The ride was exciting and before I left I was like I need to take something special for the Twitterati in Dubai. I first thought about postcards that capture Oman’s beautiful imagery, but then I hit upon a better idea.

Arun Rajagopal with PK Gulati at Dubai Twestival
If you live in
Oman, you would have definitely tasted ‘Chips Oman’ which is one of the most popular snacks in this country. It’s like staple food out here along with Mountain Dew. So I took bags of Chips Oman crisps across the border, because they stand for Oman (a chips brand named after a country is just yummy!). You might take a look at the Chips Oman page on Facebook as well.

Yes, so I made it to Barasti with bags of chips in hand. It was great meeting a lot of interesting tweeps at Dubai. There was a clear sense of camaraderie that goes with being a part of a small community. And it’s a community that will go stronger and get better over time.

I particularly enjoyed meeting @PKGulati, @Renroon, @divine_dee, @kangayayaroo, @umarpirzada, @ MaliZomg, @Lhjunkie, @mayG_UTP, @mnystedt, @DaddyBird, @skinnylatte, @esperanca, @DrBaher, @dxbluey @Carringtonm & many others. I didn’t get to say hello to a lot of people & I’m hoping to connect with more at the next outing.

I missed out on my Dubai Twestival Official Tee (actually left it on the couch & found it missing by the time I remembered) – that was a disappointment considering it would have made a lovely souvenir for my trip.

Many, many thanks to the organizers of the Dubai Twestival who made it all happen. It’s no small task to put up an event of this magnitude – and the outcome was simply splendid.

Another highlight of my Dubai trip was getting to meet David Koopmans from Melbourne @koopmans but that is fodder for another post! Tweet on, people…

News on Dubai Twestival (very extensively covered in local media):

Snaps from Dubai Twestival:

Pics credit @bojicas

It’s Obama time! November 5, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Social Media.
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2 comments

Congratulations Obama. Congratulations America. This morning, I got to work and discovered that Barack Obama is the 44th president of the USA. I immediately logged on to Twitter and went through my feed soaking in the collective emotions of a people who so desired a change of leadership for America. I then wished I could see his acceptance speech live (which I did a few minutes ago finally!). I thought it would be great if I captured this defining moment in history through the tweets of some of my friends on Twitter. Finally, change is here and this is what America had to say today.

jeffpulver Good morning, America how are you? Looks like the world has changed a little overnight. For the better. With love from Tel Aviv.

scottkarp Never seen so many people at a political event with tears.

kevglobal just in case you missed it: YES WE CAN!

BrianReich Its kind of a bummer that my son, just shy of his first birthday, is sleeping through this historic night.

briansolis Welcome to a new America

ChrisSaad i have tears in my eyes

mikearauz YES WE CAN.

shelisrael The only dry eye in the entire country is his.

shelisrael “Democracy, liberty and unyielding hope. That’s America‘s true genius is that America can change.”

shelisrael To all those watching from beyond our shores: A new dawn of American leadership is here.

Scobleizer For the past 30 minutes I sat holding my son, Milan, listening to Obama. More than once I wiped a tear from my cheek.

shelisrael “We rise or fall as one nation, as one people.’

DustyReagan I think the Obama win broke the Internet tonight. Too much twittering, and digging, and et cetera happening.

tamar can obama just make his darn acceptance speech so my husband will come to bed???

tbrunelle Times Square is INSANE. This is an amazing experience.

KristinGorski President Obama!!!!!!!!!! 🙂 I am so deeply happy right now.

BrianReich I just got an email from Barack Obama saying thank you…

jimkukral Yes, it’s over. Time for healing. Time for a new face for America. I’m proud of my new America.

ScottMonty Whew. We can all rest well. America returns to the top of the ever-so-important global popularity contest.

charleneli Yes We Did!

katiechatfield WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

debbieweil WHOOOEEE!!!! HISTORY!!!!!!!!!

CBWhittemore This is so very exciting! Congratulations America.

thomasclifford Yes we can. 🙂

ModaMags president Obama! Wow!!!!!

ShamaHyder …And the world as we know it changed forever.