How social media management can improve airline customer experience
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How social media management can improve airline customer experience

by Phil Garbrecht | May 30, 2019

The airline industry is a staple in modern society, but this hasn’t prevented airlines from experiencing intense competition and declining profitability in recent years. This, in addition to travel fears and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, means that airlines need to market their brands effectively in order to survive.

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The first area an airline should look to improve is their customer experience. According to Forrester, airlines leave as much as $1.4 billion on the table each year by failing to improve their customer experience.

But how can airlines improve their customer experience? One solution is social monitoring.

In this blog, we’ll take you through not only what you need to do to improve your customer experience, but also how to achieve this through effective social media management.

a twitter conversation between southwest airlines and a customer

Three ways to improve your airline’s customer experience

1. Take a passenger-first approach

Stop focusing on yourself, and focus on your customers instead. In order to shape a positive experience from the customer's point of view, your airline brand can 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.

Don’t make customers repeat themselves.

Customers do not want to repeat their issue or personal information, such as their confirmation or frequent flyer number, over and over every time they’re handed off to a new agent or department. The key to providing personalized attention is case ownership. This requires 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.

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2. 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.

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.

3. Foster collaboration across internal departments

A closer bond between marketing and customer service is critical for success. According to Forrester, collaboration is required to leverage 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 which now takes in over 4 million euros a year in sales.

Leverage team collaboration tools

Choose technology that brings 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.

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. Even 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.1 So how does a brand 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.

Tap into expertise

When a frontline team can use a social media monitoring tool to share customer conversations across an organization and pull in the right resources quickly and efficiently, they will be able to deliver a high-quality customer experience. By tapping into subject matter experts across an organization to assist with issues, agents can provide more complete responses in less time, ultimately driving higher satisfaction ratings.

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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 is to provide customized deals that are targeted and 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.

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 brands are engaging deeply with their customers across channels; instead, they are relying on random one-off posts to broadcast their messages. With these four tips, you can drive brand loyalty by building deeper relationships with customers.

1. 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.

screenshot from copenhagen airport app

2. 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:

3. 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:

a twitter conversation between gogo and a customer

4. Leverage the power of the crowd

Drive 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 tweets, in addition to customer service agents. With peer-to-peer support, your customers will 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.

The bottom line:

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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How to Defend Your Airline's Brand in the age of Customer Scrutiny

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