I flew #RoyalBruneiAir a couple of months ago. I Tweeted a week or so before I left asking what their service was like. @RoyalBruneiAir responded and wished me a good journey.

As I was waiting to board the plane, my name was called out and I was asked to come to the front desk. I was upgraded to business class.

It was a fantastic experience and I can only put it down to the fact that I Tweeted them beforehand. My Klout score was below 50, so I didn’t think that was a factor. It was the first time I have truly slept on a plane, once I had figured out how to get my seat horizontal. I even had a duvet, yes a duvet.

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I had a really interesting conversation with a colleague a couple of days ago about social media and the utilities sector.

Themes we talked about: Decentralisation of service, culture not technology, changing business models, business transformation, empathy vs transaction, do companies have the right ‘literacies’ to even contemplate some of the things they want to do, will contact centres even exist in the future, understanding who is actually even your employee now…

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I read the following article a moment ago – Brazilian fashion retailer displays Facebook ‘likes’ for items in its real-world stores.

What struck me was not whether a retailer (or any business in fact) would do something like this, but at what point they might do it and why and how you could use such a mechanism tactically to lift sales?

How else could you apply the same approach to different scenarios to bring the online-offline (‘on-off initiative’) worlds closer together? One of the great unexplored areas and mechanics in my mind and a good starting point – the humble hashtag.

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Back to Royal Brunei Air. I Tweeted @RoyalBruneiAir a few days before I left. And if I’m honest, I Tweeted them intentionally to try to influence them to consider upgrading me on my return leg. No such luck. I flew economy back and boy is there a difference.

What was interesting and I was aware I was doing it, was that I was almost looking for negative things, I wanted things to go wrong, to not be right, to not be as good as my business class experience, not because I wanted to complain or be negative, but because I had had such great service on the previous leg. Go figure! When I sat in my economy class seat, I did find that the hand rest was loose, and there were other things that annoyed me.

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I’m finding myself in a gradual period of change. For the past five years or so I’ve focused almost entirely on social media customer service. I’ve seen the industry grow and new models emerge. I’ve seen more and more companies adopt the use of social media customer service. I’ve seen companies wrestle with social media customer service ROI and scalability. I’ve met some great people virtually and IRL. But perhaps as the industry matures, I am now finding myself taking a broader view of the organisational implications of social itself; perhaps this is a sign of an increasing maturity in the industry? Yes, there are still those yet to embark on their social journey, but increasingly I’m seeing companies begin to understand that social is more about culture and less about technology. I’m seeing a shift towards something that effects and impacts the entire organisation. I’m seeing companies begin to understand that their social journey starts with them and not with their customers. Empowerment starts with the recognition that you have to let your agents and employees go, that you have to trust them implicitly; that’s why you hired them in the first place, right?!. Empowerment is not a policy but a philosophy.

The recognition that social has far-reaching implications across the organisation, the impending realisation that the effect of the democratisation of technology will result in the increasing decentralisation of service, must signal to us all that the business and customer service models that have emerged over the past few decades are outmoded, increasingly irrelevant, increasingly in need of realignment and redefinition.

We live in a period of change, flux and disruption. We live in a period where we are all learning, of necessity, different literacies. The question we must all ask ourselves is not ‘if we have to change’ but ‘when will we make that change’?

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So where am I going with my Royal Brunei Air story? A couple of weeks after getting back to London, I reflected on the whole experience. Overall, I’m positive, and I keep telling myself not to be ungrateful. But the bottom line is that my great experience is slightly tempered. Rather than thinking – I love Royal Brunei Air, I’m telling myself not to be ungrateful.

I’m wondering to myself, what’s the distance between ‘being grateful’ and ‘loving’? I know my feelings towards Royal Brunei Air would have been 100% ‘in love’ if I had been upgraded on the return leg back to London. I would have walked off the plane being an advocate for life. As it is, I know I am being ungrateful, and in truth I am a fan of Royal Brunei Air, but at the same time I’m more acutely aware of the gulf between Economy and Business Class. The difference between a duvet and a blanket, the difference between a plastic knife and a stainless steel one, the difference between being served at set times and an ‘always on’ service. I keep reminding myself not to be ungrateful.

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