You can't write them better than this. A disgruntled customer of American Airlines writes up a hard blog post on what's wrong with the AA website. Even goes so far as to draw up a new design for AA. Posts that on blog for the world to see. Interesting from a social media perspective, right? More from the guy in question at dustincurtis.com.
"A few months ago, I wrote an article expressing my displeasure with American Airlines‘ hideous online presence. I also spent some time mocking up a redesigned version of their website. To my surprise, a user experience designer at AA.com emailed me an amazing response describing some of the design problems faced in large corporations. You should read my original article here and the response from Mr. X here."
Go read Dustin's original post - it's a good read. Then, take a look at Mr. X. It's an actual employee who comes in to talk about the issues, but also to give Dustin some perspective on how difficult it is to turn a big ole' battleship like American Airlines from a design perspective, basically talking about all the layers, the silos, etc. - and how hard it is to get things that make sense done in that environment. Here's part of the reply from Mr X:
"I saw your blog post titled “Dear AmericanAirlines,” and I thought I’d drop a line. Sorry for the length of this email, but let me sum up the gist of what I’ve written below: You’re right. You’re so very right. And yet…
First, an introduction. I’m Mr X, and I work here at AA.com. I’ve been doing UX design and development for about 10 years with a variety of companies in a variety of industries, and I work with a team of other UX specialists on AA.com. I like to think I’m decent at what I do, and I know the others I work with here are all pretty good. The problem with the design of AA.com, however, lies less in our competency (or lack thereof, as you pointed out in your post) and more with the culture and processes employed here at American Airlines.
But—and I guess here’s the thing I most wanted to get across—simply doing a home page redesign is a piece of cake. You want a redesign? I’ve got six of them in my archives. It only takes a few hours to put together a really good-looking one, as you demonstrated in your post. But doing the design isn’t the hard part, and I think that’s what a lot of outsiders don’t really get, probably because many of them actually do belong to small, just-get-it-done organizations. But those of us who work in enterprise-level situations realize the momentum even a simple redesign must overcome, and not many, I’ll bet, are jumping on this same bandwagon. They know what it’s like.
OK, so it’s not all bad. The good news is that we have a lot of UX improvements coming down the line, most of which we’ll incorporate over the next 12 – 18 months as new projects go live. Some of our slated efforts include improved navigation; 16 column grid-based layouts; a lighter, more airy visual design; improved user interactions; and an increased transparency to fares and sales policies across the board. We’ll work it all in organically, as the site evolves to include new features. But it won’t be done via an explicit, massive redesign. Can’t be.
So, since it won’t all get done overnight, don’t give us a bad grade if you don’t see it happening fast enough for your taste. Even a large organization can effect change; it just takes a different approach than the methods found in smaller shops. But it’ll happen because it has to, and we know that. And we’ll keep on keepin’ on, even if most of us really and truly would prefer to throw it all away and start over."
Read the full note from Mr X. at DustinCurtis.com. Guess what happened to Mr. X? American Airlines did a text search off the Microsoft Outlook Exchange Server to identify Mr. X and promptly fired him in the same day.
So the question regarding social media and transparency is this - can you handle the Mr X's of the world engaging dissatisfied customers on behalf of your company? I look at the note provided by Mr. X and think, wow, that's so much more effective in terms of engaging Dustin Curtis than the PR shop would have been. My first reaction would be that he needs his own blog on behalf of American Airlines.
But I'm an outlier with social media usage. What about you? Good firing, bad firing, or somewhere in between?
Its' a brave new world out there for companies trying to control the message rather than honestly engaging customers.
Hat tip to Capitalist reader JC...