[Case Study] How Social Media is Enhancing Airport Customer Service

Customer service, guest relations, passenger experience; No matter what your specific airport calls it, it is a major component of airport operations. This segment of this Simpli-Airports Series focuses on Customer Service and how your airport can benchmark against what others are doing in the social space and use that information as a guidepost for future social growth. [push h=”18″]

While more than half of the airports surveyed for the recent SimpliFlying Social Media Outlook Report are unsure about the specific return from their social media investment, most airports have mapped the value of their social media performance to business goals. The top goals were Brand Engagement, Customer Service and Revenue. [push h=”18″]

92.7% of the airports surveyed noted that Customer service is a prominent business driver when it comes to social media. [push h=”18″]

The biggest challenge faced by airports surveyed for in the afore mentioned study is the insufficient allocation of resources to social media. The next biggest challenge is the lack of budget, which often go hand-in-hand.  So how does an airport that is aiming to increase customer service through social media obtain that goal when resources are seemingly lacking? [push h=”22″]

Resource Identification + Allocation = Social Customer Service  [push h=”18″]

Some of the airports that are currently dedicating resources to social media with a focus on customer service include the Portland International Airport (PDX, Portland, OR) and the Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ, Toronto, ON). Both have taken customer service and social media to a new level with call centers and guest service stations filled with trained and dedicated ”Tweeters.” These airports are working to train (current) guest relations and call center staff to respond real-time to customer service issues that come in through the Twitter channel, just as they would to a call from a guest on the phone. These two airports represent a sampling of ways in which social customer service is finding its way into airports of all sizes and how airport are using existing resources to meet these social customer service needs and goals. [push h=”18″]

Are traditional airport call centers becoming a need of the past?  As more and more travelers begin to Tweet, Facebook, and post recommendations and questions on social channels, more and more airports are beginning to take up the responsibility of responding to Tweets just as they would to phone calls.  In this Simpli-Airports segment, we will be exploring a case study specific to the Port of Portland/Portland International Airport. [push h=”18″]


Simpli-Airports Series: PDX Social Customer Service

After working with a few airports on integrating social media (namely Twitter) into their customer service response plans, I was quite intrigued to hear Donna Prigmore from the Port of Portland and PDX Airport speak at the recent AAAE Social Media Summit. [push h=”18″]

Donna Prigmore shared how the Portland International Airport launched an airport Twitter program after hearing of the affects of the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Tornado. In the midst of this crisis, Lambert-St. Louis’s airport Twitter handle grew by over 4000 followers in just one hour.  Mobile phones were the only way for people to communicate with the airport, and many travelers and loved ones went right to Twitter.  This prompted Prigmore and her team to work develop a system and program for a fully functioning “Tweeting Call Center.” [push h=”18″]

Since that time, Donna and her staff have turned a 14 member customer relations department into a “Tweeting call center” with real-time coverage from 6am-11:30pm daily.   The attached case study showcases the way in which they have structured and defined how and when Twitter is used within their organizational structure and what the protocols are for responses. [push h=”18″]

With the implementation of Twitter assessment tests, she was able to both train and test all of her staff for Twitter competency and know-how (as well as interest).  Ten of the 14 call center staff members Tweet, with shifts set up to include one Twitter “Lead” and one “backup” to monitor and respond to customer service tweets as they come in. This team setup has Donna’s team Tweeting with the expectation that the typical airport Tweeter is expecting an immediate response.  The team has a goal of 5-10 minute response times. [push h=”18″]

We are delighted to share Donna’s presentation below, in hopes that more airports will see the possibilities that can come from training current support staff to help with real-time social customer service. [push h=”18″]



Other great examples of Real-time customer service in airports include: [push h=”18″]

 London Gatwick Airport

  • Live twitter screens within the airport to display an ongoing and current Twitter feed.
  • Integrated Twitter presence in that not only the airport is responding to passenger questions, but passengers and guests also answer one another’s tweets. (Crowdsourcing customer service efforts [push h=”18″]

Mumbai International Airport

  • The airport has programed a tool to pick up on keywords such as: toilets, bags and delays so that tweets are monitored regularly, and response time is down to minutes. [push h=”18″]

In the remainder of this Simpli-Airports Series, we will continue to explore case studies around airports that are using social media to drive specific goals and also take a look at how they are allocating resources and budgets to these areas: [push h=”18″]

  • Week 2: Surprise and Delight
  • Week 3: Social Interest and Photo-Sharing
  • Week 4: Social Crowd Sourcing

We look forward to conversing with you on how you can improve your airport social media program in each of these focus areas. [push h=”18″]

Join us next week for the second segment of this Simpli-Airports series when we take a deeper look at a case study put together by Ryan Hollingsworth, Communications and Social Media Manager at the Akron Canton Airport (CAK). Ryan will be sharing some CAK insight  with us on Surprising & Delighting fans by creating social media content that is meant to entertain and inspire.

Do you have an interesting airport case study that you would like us to share with our readers? Write us at: airports@simpliflying.com.


Featured image: Courtesy of the Port of Portland

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