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From check-in to touchdown: how social is changing the passenger experience

Anthony Thomas
By Anthony Thomas on Nov 3, 2015 9:04:00 AM
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From check-in to touchdown, airlines passengers are inherently pressed for time. At various points throughout the passenger experience, usually starting 24 hours before takeoff, time sensitive deadlines are signposted for check-in, clearing security, boarding planes and making onward connections. It’s therefore not surprising that many passengers prefer to turn to social for speedy minimal-effort customer service when things start to go wrong with their itineraries.

Conversocial recently led roundtable discussions with executives from 50 global airlines at Simpliflying’s Innovation Lab, focusing on the trends, challenges and best practices associated with resolving service issues for passengers through social media.

Attendees comprised representatives from 50 global airlines, including American Airlines, Aer Lingus, Air New Zealand, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines.

Below are the top takeaways from those discussions:

Resource a dedicated team for 24/7 social care

The desire to shift to 24/7 support was a consistent objective amongst most airlines from around the world. This objective will compound the challenges associated with recruitment, training and resourcing as teams of social care agents scale. For many in the room, domestic airlines were staffed with up to 10 agents while international carriers had up to 30 agents.

By comparison, social unicorn KLM has 150 dedicated agents. For most airlines, a significant increase in headcount is required to ensure a great customer service experience on social.

According to Twitter, as many as 38% of Tweets directed at service handles on Twitter receive no response. Meanwhile, Conversocial’s own research identified that 21% of Tweets directed at airlines that included a flight number did not receive a response before takeoff.

To help reduce resolution times, it’s important that the appropriate number of agents are on the front lines, empowered to resolve any issue that arises. For international airlines, 24/7 is the only option as recently stated by Etihad’s SVP of Retail & Contact Centres "with travellers based worldwide and in different time zones, providing 24-hour social media support in English and Arabic allows us to be more responsive, and serve more of our customers”.

Conversations are shifting to private messaging

With most airlines providing some form of customer service through social media, it’s no longer a channel of last resort. Customers expect a resolution and most receive this with varying degrees of delay. With airlines serving customers in their channel of choice, there is less of an incentive to speak in public, as it’s unlikely to result in a higher prioritization for your issue.

Twitter’s changes to Direct Message character limits earlier this year encourages passengers to go to private first, a trend reported by many of Conversocial’s clients at both of our recent Customer Advisory Boards in New York & London. This trend will continue along with the shift away from social to messaging apps such as Messenger, Whatsapp and WeChat.

For airlines such as Aer Lingus and Air New Zealand that invite customers to proactively Direct Message them, this means customers will increasingly provide all the contextual information needed to resolve their issue upfront. As such, first contact resolution is increasingly possible.

“In the moment” is the future of customer care

While airline passengers and the industry itself have traditionally preferred Twitter for its concise exchange of messages, Facebook is challenging that assumption with the introduction of Businesses on Messenger. With Messenger, Facebook hopes to start the conversation between brand and customer at the point of sale - before anything has gone wrong.

Side-stepping e-mail, Messenger will provide passengers with one threaded conversation of relevant messages such as reservation confirmation, check-in reminders and service notifications. This technology has the potential to empower an airline’s ops and comms team to proactively alert passengers of problems, through a medium they’ll be paying attention to before they feel the need to reach out to service teams and ask individual questions.

Airlines such as KLM have already embraced Messenger, guaranteeing passengers speedier resolution times by ensuring that the airline has the full context of the customer’s profile, without needing to ask for it. With a 40% increase in volumes on Facebook since launch, it’s clear that this new technology is resonating with the increasingly mobile and social passenger.

Conclusion

Over 160 executives from global airlines reported that customer service is their number one priority for 2015-2016, compared to brand awareness in 2014-2015. However, despite most airlines agreeing that volumes are increasing and operating hours must expand senior management is still mostly focused on leveraging social for brand awareness.

Unsurprisingly, considering this differing of opinion, there has been a 26% increase in airline executives reporting insufficient resources as a key challenge for 2015-2016.

It is, therefore, important to ensure that the resources and processes are efficient and facilitating in-channel resolution through social media.

For more information on how to assemble a great social customer care team, check out Conversocial’s Definitive Guide to Social Customer Service. You can also request a demo our social customer care platform, trusted by airlines globally to power their social care programs.

Topics: Airline, Customer Experience, Social Leaders

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