Why Airlines (and Airports) must shift to Social Customer Service

SimpliFlying has been talking about the inevitable evolution, if not revolution, in airline/airport customer service following the increase in social media usage by travelers. Today, we’re glad to say that the revolution is finally here. Customer service 2.0 is now a stark reality, and should soon be a pressing need for airlines and airports the world over. Let’s begin by introducing a young lady from AirAsia previously featured in our Customer Service Top 10 who’s at the forefront of this immense change.

 

She’s little, she’s a miss, and she’s red… care to guess who she is?

She’s Lil’ Miss Red, and she’s Air Asia’s Customer Service “ambassador” as well as the core element of the AskAirAsia customer service website.  From now on she will also increasingly become the Air Asia customer service agent as the airline has announced that it will close two of its customer service hotlines in a move towards what it calls its “on-going mission… to utilize technology and practice cost efficiency as well as promoting full automation and self service via the airline’s online channels”.

Although it might seem as just another cost-cutting measure, the shift from a telephone-based to a social media and internet-based model will most likely be an inevitable one for most airlines (and even airports). The speed and extent to which airlines will embrace the new model will obviously vary depending on business models, but a deep rooted shift in customer expectations is undoubtedly underway, and it all began with…

 

Eyjafjallajökull, of course!

If there ever was a perfect wake up call for airlines to engage in social media the ash-filled roar of the famous (and unpronounceable) Icelandic volcano was it, at least for Europe. The disruption caused by airspace closures and its unpredictable behavior proved to both airline and airports that traditional channels were simply unfit to handle large crises in an increasingly social world.

It became evident that, while traditional call centers were collapsed, users on Twitter and Facebook were helping each other and the European Air Traffic Control Agency (Eurocontrol) was providing them with up to date information in an efficient and relatively effortless manner.

 

New Rules of Engagement

As our CEO Shashank Nigam noted in a recent webinar, with the rise of social media, consumers now expect to receive answers and immediate attention 24/7 on their online platform of choice. In this new environment social media is becoming a must for airlines, and while some are still struggling, others, like Delta, are already managing to answer over 4000 queries a month with an average response times of as little as 11 minutes.

Furthermore, as our latest SimpliFlying Hero explained, airlines have found out that by using social media for customer service they not only gain in terms of response speed and customer engagement, but they are also able to listen to what is being said about them, and react accordingly.

 

Not only airlines

According to data from an infographic that SimpliFlying developed with ACI Europe a staggering 77% of all passengers that travelled through Europe did so in a “social media enabled” airport, a clear sign that airlines are not the only ones engaging in social customer service.

This was also confirmed during the research for our crisis management top 10 where we found several cases of airports taking a hands-on approach on social media to assist passengers during a crisis.

Given how travelers increasingly go online to seek solutions to their problems, it’s only fair that airlines and airports live up to their expectations. If expectations from travelers aren’t enough incentive, competitors should be sufficient reason to sit up and take note. There’s no looking back now!

 

Are you an airline or airport wondering how you can keep up with competitors and offer 24×7 customer-service on social media? SimpliFlying, along with its partner InterGlobe Technologies, offers scalable social customer-service solutions that will take care of all your concerns. Get in touch with us at engage@simpliflying.com to learn more!

Marco Serusi

Marco Serusi

Senior Consultant at SimpliFlying
Marco Serusi is SimpliFlying's director of consulting and has worked on major client projects with the likes of LATAM Airlines, London Heathrow and Airbus He has also delivered training in digital aviation strategy for hundreds of executives globally and spoken at several aviation conferences worldwide. He is well known for his cutting-edge research into crisis communications and social media trends. Serusi started his career in aviation after graduating in Air Transport and completing his Masters with a specialization in marketing. He is Italian who also speaks Spanish and English fluently and has lived in several countries including the UK, USA, Italy and Spain. He has been with SimpliFlying for over 6 years. You can talk to him in Italian, English or Spanish. You can also tweet him at @simplimarco, e-mail him at marco@simpliflying.com.
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