Social Customer Service Insight from Airlines at SimpliFlying Lab

Social customer service will be the top priority in the coming year, as revealed in the latest Airline Social Media Outlook 2017 survey.

At the recent SimpliFlying Lab in London, some of the best airline marketing leaders were in attendance to discuss pressing challenges facing the industry today. Social customer service was one of the four core topics. The airline delegates, consisting senior management executives and middle managers, were very forthcoming with their stories of challenges and successes.

The issues raised depended not only on the size of the airline and the network they fly but also the stage of maturity each of them was at with social customer service. This roundtable was also joined by a subject matter expert from Conversocial, a provider of social customer service software.

Challenges Airlines Face and How Some of These Are Being Addressed

1) Achieving consistency in brand tone, language use and service quality across channels and departments.

There are two ways to address this:

a) Dedicated staff training: At Air New Zealand, staff undergoes 10 weeks of training  (of which six are intensive) where they are taught about brand tone and brand language, and how these differ when delivering customer care versus external brand communications.

b) Re-think the organisational structure for better synergy among related teams: For example at Southwest, the Social Care team of 30 staff currently sits within the Customer Relations team.

2) Responding quickly (20 min is now the golden target) and resolving the issues within the same channel: It is important to first identify those posts or questions that require responses. From there on, prioritise the most important and urgent ones. There are existing tools that help airlines manage the incoming volume and prioritise in a systematic manner. This allows for diligent tracking and better resolution rate.

3) Scalability when crises hit: Brussels Airlines has a very interesting internal “Jumpseat Programme” that encourages all employees within the airline to take up the role of answering Brussels Airlines’ social media queries for a few hours every month. This was enabled in the aftermath of the attacks at Brussels Airport, during which a temporary social customer service team of 140 staff (from various departments) was put together to handle all guest requests. The airline sees “Jumpseat” as a way to get the entire organisation involved in customer service but more importantly, ready to scale up when a crisis hits.

The social customer service landscape can be a tricky one to navigate for many airlines. This is due to the many variables involved, such as increasing passenger expectation, fast-moving changes to social media platforms (especially Facebook) that also affect customer behaviour, inflexibility of existing legacy procedures etc.

Yet, social customer service is here to stay. To start with, airlines have plenty that they can teach as well as learn from one another.

Wish you could have been there to personally hear from and discuss intimately with top fellow airline marketers on these topics? Find out more about SimpliFlying Lab here.


Li Guen

Li Guen

Former Head of Communications and Marketing at SimpliFlying
Li Guen was the Marketing Communication Lead and Project Manager at SimpliFlying from May 2012 to May 2017. Prior to this, Li Guen was at Weber Shandwick working with clients including Rolls-Royce, Changi Airport Group and P&G. In her free time, Li Guen likes trekking mountains in Asia.
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