Amtrak made a bold move today when it tried to cheer up a disgruntled passenger with some jokes on Twitter.
It’s great to see Amtrak make this kind of effort. Humor is hard to pull off, and it can backfire. What’s more, many major services like Amtrak may steer clear of social media precisely because of complaints like Raelynn’s. Countless factors beyond Amtrak’s control can cause train delays, so why open yourself up to complaints that you can’t respond to?
Amtrak’s jokes provide the answer. Customers are going to complain on Twitter if you’re there or not. An official presence on Twitter gives you a chance to let customers know that they’re heard and that you care about them, even if you can’t solve their problem. If a customer is having a bad experience, you have a chance to make it a little better by reaching out to them.
Now, your mileage may vary. Like I said, humor is hard to pull off. It’d be weird if Amtrak tried to tell train jokes to everyone who complains about them, but this was a good showing.
I’d add: Be a person. Not “be yourself” or “be like everyone on Twitter”, but write like your account is a human being, because that’s how other people see it.
What kind of person would @Amtrak be? I picture somebody’s dad, middle aged and middle class, kindly and patient, fine with wearing a silly hat because he loves trains.
When Raelynn got frustrated, how would that kindly person respond? Silence? No, he cares too much. Helpful advice? Normally yes, but he knows there’s no way to solve the problem right now. A joke to make her smile? Yes. A corny joke about trains? Absolutely.
To be clear: the actual person writing for @Amtrak could be an 18-year-old disaffected hipster or an 80-year-old foul-mouthed firebrand, but the voice of that imagined @Amtrak is what came through. That corny, friendly voice.