Sherlock – our secret weapon for change

Marketeers are trained to accurately define the ‘what’ before moving on to the ‘how’ when implementing products and services. Increasingly, however, we feel we need to work the other way round to excel in customer service. Allow me to explain.

From our customers’ point of view, it’s easy because they already use the latest social and mobile technology. We, companies, cannot keep pace with our customers’ expectations.

To begin with, products and services are never finished. And that is especially true in a connected world. The only way to improve customer experience is by putting the product  out in the world and then changing it on the basis of user data and feedback.


Secondly, waiting for new features to be fully implemented takes ages and makes your company slow and bureaucratic.

And perhaps more importantly, we have learned that by putting out a continuous stream of beta products based on the latest social and mobile capabilities, we can change our company for the better. We become more agile. We listen to customers better.

Easy for the customer?

Last year, one of our team members pitched a new service. She was very annoyed because every time a customer told us via social media that they had left something on board, she had to ask them to fill out a form. This form was used when contacting the Lost & Found department at Schiphol to check if the passenger’s belongings had been found. Easy for the company; not at all easy for the customer.

Team Sherlock

We receive over 40.000 messages a week from our customers via social media. This offers us fantastic, but also confrontational insight into what customers face when traveling with KLM. Week in and week out, lost property was among the top ten customer complaints.

[tweet text=”Products and services are never finished in a connected world.”]

So my annoyed colleague launched a pilot project, using ground and flight staff who had been temporarily transferred to alternative duties for medical (or other) reasons. She called it Team Sherlock and its purpose was plain and simple: retrieve and return property that our customers leave on board as soon as possible.

In the beginning, we had nothing but an idea. No office space. No team. Just one dedicated person with security clearance and a lot of energy.

Soon the cases starting coming in, slowly but surely. We were able to help an 82-year old lady who had lost her handbag and the pictures of her late husband that were in it. We also returned a lost teddy bear to a kid, effectively making the child and her parents brand ambassadors for life. And the list grew longer every day.

[tweet text=”Most processes are easy for the company, not at all easy for the customer.”]

Now, a year later, we have established procedures and communication lines so every KLM frontline employee is able to connect with Team Sherlock.

A businessman lost his laptop, but hadn’t noticed and had gone to sleep in his hotel. When he woke up, he found a note from room service informing him that he could pick up his laptop at the hotel reception.

We also received a lengthy email from a privacy and security expert at one of the world’s biggest tech companies. He praised Team Sherlock for filling a huge gap in corporate data security. He explained that most companies spend a lot of time and money on data security, but all that is wasted if employees leave their devices on the plane by accident. Sherlock fixes that.

The service officially went live last week and is now fully implemented in our existing hub organisation. The team currently consists of 20 people, who work daily shifts at Schiphol Airport from 06:00 to 21:00.

Sherlock’s mascot

To celebrate the launch of the service, KLM posted a video featuring Sherlock’s mascot, a beagle. You can imagine our surprise when the video reached over 46 million people within a week and prompted 1 million people to respond to the service. A great vote of confidence for the Sherlock Team and a token of appreciation for the people that had the guts to start the service with little more than security clearance, a lot of energy and one smartphone. But above all, this is further proof that one cannot change one’s business model nowadays without social media input and mobile technology.

It also confirms that more power to the customer is nothing to be afraid of, because it changes your company for the better.

Posted by:   Martijn van der Zee  | 
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I need your help, urgently.

I have so far been ignored, insulted and spoken to extremely rudely by KLM staff and neither KLM staff or Schipol airport has made any effort whatsoever to help me in the past 3 weeks. Its appauling.

I accidentally left my laptop on flight KL1822 in the care of KLM staff on a KLM plane for TEN MINUTES when taking a plane from Berlin Tegel to Amsterdam Schipol on Friday 18th September. It is a silver 15 macbook pro in a black cover Serial no c02p80g7g3qd. It was left under seat 27f at around 10,40am on Friday 18th September.

I understand that it was foolish of me to accidentally leave something so precious of mine. However, I was the LAST PERSON aboard this KLM flight. My computer was only put down for TEN MINUTES. Aboard a KLM plane, full of only KLM staff. It is IMPOSSIBLE that this computer can have disappeared into thin air as KLM would have me believe – completely and utterly impossible.

Therefore, it stands to logical reason, that a member of KLM staff has got my computer. I am simply asking that it is returned to me. If KLM continue to refuse to return it, then put simply, KLM will have stolen my computer.

I have been on the phone, email and social media constantly in the past two and a half weeks since September 18th trying to get it back. Ive spoke to both Schipol AIrport and KLM repeatedly. KLM have been extremely rude and totally unhelpful – KLM claim that they have not seen a laptop on this flight. Which is of course as I said utterly impossible. As laptops dont just disappear right? So why does KLM continue to lie to me

I am writing to you with desperation!

I am extremely upset and outraged to have had such a stressful and awful few weeks. I do not know what to think. KLM has been agressively rude, and utterly unhelpful in their response to this urgent matter. There are not many scenarios as to what can have happened to my computer aboard that 1822KLM flight 3 weeks ago. My laptop would certainly have been found on board the KL1822 on Friday 18th September by a member of KLM staff. Why KLm refuse to give it back to me or admit having it is very upsetting

Please please, any help at all is so appreciated. My experience thus far has just been so awful. Please please help


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