How social media management can improve airline customer experience

Khoros Staff

The airline industry is a staple in modern society. However, this hasn’t prevented airlines from experiencing intense competition and declining profitability in recent years. This means that airlines need to market their brands effectively in order to survive.

14 ways airlines can use social media to improve customer experience

1. Take a passenger-first approach

Stop focusing on yourself and focus on your customers instead. To create a passenger-first approach as part of your airline’s customer experience strategy, follow these five steps:

  1. Interact in a friendly, authentic, and personalized way.

  2. Listen to the customer's unique situation and acknowledge their needs.

  3. Give real-time, accurate information that empowers the customer to make decisions.

  4. Go beyond the customer's service expectations so they will remember and share their great experience.

  5. Remember the customer's preferences and anticipate their future needs.

2. Don’t make customers repeat themselves

Customers do not want to repeat their issue or personal information, such as their confirmation or frequent flier number, over and over every time they’re handed off to a new agent or department. In a survey we conducted, 62% of customers want to engage with brands across several digital channels and 77% of customers want brands’ internal teams to collaborate so they don’t have to repeat themselves in these scenarios.

The key to providing personalized customer experiences in the airline industry is case ownership. This requires airlines to use a social media management tool that integrates with a CRM and maintains detailed customer histories and assigns cases rather than posts. This setup ensures that when agents have to pass along a customer, that customer’s information is readily accessible by the next agent.

If your airline’s customer experience management platform or tools don’t enable agents to track and share interactions across channels — request a demo of our platform to learn how we can help improve your customer experience.

3. Effectively support customers on the platform of their choice

Breaking free from silos also applies to social media platforms. Customers are in control of where communications happen, and they expect to be served in the digital channel of their choice.

Whether they prefer to reach out through Twitter DMs, mobile messaging, or an online community, every interaction should be seamless.

For example, onboard a JetBlue Airways flight, instead of venting to the flight crew, a customer tweeted @JetBlue that his TV wasn’t working:

The digital customer service team responded within minutes and attempted to troubleshoot the problem. When it couldn’t be fixed, they offered the customer a credit for the malfunction. Had they gone a step further, JetBlue Airways could have made a good experience even better by working with the flight crew behind the scenes to coordinate a seat change for the dissatisfied customer.

It’s important to remember an airline’s customer experience involves every interaction between customers and the brand before, during, and after their flight. As part of your airline’s customer experience strategy, encourage collaboration between service agents and other employees for the best possible customer experience.

4. Listen, then talk

Customers expect to be served in their digital channel of choice, often in real-time. Monitor all brand conversations across social channels, not just when your brand’s handle is used.

When global traveler Lars Silberbauer tagged his departure and arrival airports, mentioning that his Samsonite luggage was destroyed, he was very impressed that Samsonite joined in on the conversation, offering to help. “By doing that they have definitely made sure that I will remain a loyal customer for the next many years,” said Silberbauer.

Furthermore, the response Silberbauer received from both airlines also affected his views of each:

Copenhagen Airport was empathetic and showed genuine concern about the issue through a personalized response, while Heathrow Airport provided a more scripted response that was technically correct but showed a lack of care for the customer.

Silberbauer notes that while he didn’t expect either airline to fix his issue, the interaction dissuaded him from flying with Heathrow Airport in the future.

The takeaway here is that airlines should closely monitor digital channels to identify upset customers, and when issues occur, agents should respond with a prompt, personalized response that shows genuine concern for the customer.

5. Foster collaboration across internal departments

A closer bond between marketing and customer service is critical for an airline’s success. According to Forrester, collaboration is required to leverage consumer learnings and to provide a cohesive digital experience for customers. But it shouldn’t end there. When there is an open dialogue between customer service and other departments, both the customer and the company win.

KLM understands the importance of customer feedback for product and service innovations.

When an employee noticed that a lot of people were asking about social media payments, that person reached out directly to KLM’s IT team to see if it was feasible.

The result? A new social media payment tool that now takes in over four million euros a year in sales.

6. Leverage team collaboration tools

The best way to improve your airline’s customer experience is by utilizing feedback directly from customers. However, brands often struggle to share and organize customer feedback from across channels.

As part of your customer experience strategy, utilize a unified engagement hub that seamlessly connects customer interactions from several channels. Beyond improving service agent efficiency, this data will also be easier to analyze so your brand can utilize it for strategic decisions.

Choose a customer experience management platform, like the one offered by Khoros, to bring together marketing, customer service, and other parts of the organization. Manage integrated campaigns with the same calendar of events; share customer profiles, social posts, emails, and digital tactics; and execute better experiences together.

7. Why is social media monitoring important for airlines?

Brands have a tendency to put social media into its own departmental silo, sometimes with disastrous effects. On the operational side, silos reduce efficiency, waste resources, and hurt productivity. Worse, they impact customers by preventing brands from providing consistent service at every touchpoint in the consumer’s buying journey.

Between ads, social platforms, websites, and blogs, the path to purchase has become increasingly fragmented, but customers still expect consistency from brands. This is not easy when, on average, large brands have 55 active social media accounts managed by 45 employees.

So, how does a large brand like an airline manage multiple social media accounts across different departments while maintaining a seamless digital customer experience? 

Read on to learn how, and read How To Defend Your Airline's Brand In The Age Of Customer Scrutiny for additional airline service insight.

8. Tap into expertise

When a frontline team can use a social media monitoring tool to share customer conversations across an organization, it becomes easier to pull in needed resources quickly and efficiently. This enables social teams to deliver a high-quality customer experience more consistently.

By tapping into subject matter experts across an organization to assist with issues, agents can also provide more complete responses in less time, ultimately driving higher satisfaction ratings.

9. Drive smart decisions through data

Harness the power of customer data by putting it in the hands of the right people, at the right moment, at every touchpoint. One of the best applications for effectively using data in this way is to provide customized deals that are hyper-relevant to each customer.

KLM takes data-driven-offers one step further by putting social data back in the hands of their passengers. In an attempt to make the friendly skies even friendlier, KLM’s Meet & Seat program lets travelers opt to pick who they sit next to based on details from their social media profiles after they purchase a ticket.

10. Research airline digital and social media strategy tips

Honeymooners on their way to a picturesque destination. Families reuniting with their loved ones. Children taking their very first flights. These compelling moments occur on airlines across the world every day. On social media, airline brands have the unique ability to build bonds with customers by appealing to these important life moments. However, this doesn’t mean posting the digital equivalent of travel brochures.

Today’s customers are looking to develop more personal connections through social media and for a better digital customer experience as a whole. But very few airlines are engaging deeply with their customers across channels; instead, they are relying on random one-off posts to broadcast their messages.

To build on this point, the final four tips focus on driving brand loyalty for your airline by building deeper relationships with customers.

11. Engage in a variety of ways

Ask questions, post polls, host contests, and provide interactive content. Copenhagen Airport is on the cutting edge of customer engagement with its augmented reality location-based app.

The app is designed to help users navigate its terminals and was one of the world’s first indoor AR applications.

12. Embrace video

Rather than only investing in big-budget productions, create bite-sized videos that speak specifically to a custom audience. Videos are also an innovative and effective approach to humanizing your brand during a crisis.

Southwest Airlines did just this with a special Mother’s Day post:

13. Get to know your target audiences

Personalization comes with insight and awareness of your customers' likes, dislikes, needs, and desires. Inflight internet company Gogo recommends leveraging customer insights gleaned from social interactions to have fun with customers.

For example, when an in-flight customer vented, “On a @Gogo connection so slow, it can’t support Morse Code,” a member of the social care team responded to apologize in Morse Code, eliciting a positive reaction from the customer:

14. Leverage the power of the crowd

Drive customer questions to an online community or self-service knowledge base. At London Gatwick, screens within the terminals display the airport’s live Twitter feed. This high visibility allowed passengers and guests to answer one another’s X posts, in addition to customer service agents.

With peer-to-peer support, your customers can gain knowledge and insight while getting advice from those they trust most — other customers. As an added bonus, this type of support is the most affordable way to satisfy customer inquiries.

Deliver a first class customer experience

Customers are loyal to experiences, not brands. Creating an awesome end-to-end digital customer experience with a passenger-first approach is a proven tactic for building and fostering sustainable relationships.

For more on how the best airlines deliver excellent experiences on social media in the age of customer scrutiny, download our playbook.

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