It’s no surprise that Twitter has quickly become a go-to channel for customers to communicate with different airlines. It’s fast, easy, and well…it gets attention. Call centers can’t touch it in terms of visibility and recourse.
Twitter has empowered the people, and they’re not afraid to wield their newfound weapon.
In a recent article written by Cheryl Rice of Examiner.com, Rice reveals the most important business metric of all in the social media sphere: engagment.
Through a newly published study by Let’s Fly Cheaper – an online travel agency specializing in business travel – the Twitter and Facebook activity of eight major airlines (Delta, United, Southwest, American, Air France, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, and JetBlue) were compared to see just who is flying high.
That’s an impressive amount of people (nearly 4 million to be exact) who are listening to what these airlines have to say. Or solve. It’s both a blessing and a curse. If one of these airlines botches something up, the PR fall-out will be immense; they’ll be pushing out press releases and “I’m sorry’s” for the next year.
The ultimate social model is one where customers keeps coming back for more (and telling their friends about the sweet tickets they scored to [insert tropical locale here]) through Twitter.
Their friends get jealous, join up themselves, get great deals, use their bragging rights, make other friends jealous, their friends join, get great deals…you get the picture.
Because the most salient element of social media is a company’s ability to engage with their customers, Twitter serves as an ideal foundation to foster a dialogue, offer promotions, and add value to the airline itself.
As for the role of ‘presence’ of Twitter, customers don’t sleep and neither should an airline’s social CS team.
A huge facet of social media is that it’s always there. Just because an airline’s Twitter hours are 9 to 5 Monday – Friday (like British Airways or Cathay Pacific, for example) doesn’t mean its customers are going to relegate their concerns to those convenient hours.
It just means that come Monday morning, there is going to be a morass of tweets to wade through.
“We do not respond to formal complaints on Twitter”
Strange, but true, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, SouthWest, JetBlue, and British Airways “don’t respond to formal complaints on Twitter”…you’re forced to re-route yourself to their customer relations websites where mailing addresses (yeah right), emails, and telephone numbers are offered. Not too helpful.
Interestingly enough, American Airlines – although they claim to not answer complaints via Twitter – sends out nearly 550 tweets a day (the highest of any airline we looked at). A significant amount of customer service tweets comprise that daily number…it seems their tactic is to convince people to pursue other venues of CS so as to minimize the damage witnessed publicly.
JetBlue is another culprit of the same design; their handle explicitly states they won’t answer formal complaints via Twitter…yet they are pushing out more than 250 tweets daily. And you guessed it, a huge portion of those messages are dedicated to questions and concerns.
As for the carriers that do offer dedicated customer service support via Twitter – AskAirAsia, Delta, AirFrance, Royal Dutch Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Virgin Atlantic – AskAirAsia knocks it out of the park with nearly 340 tweets per day, although they’re only available 9-6 M-F.
Royal Dutch Airlines follows up close behind with about 230 tweets a day, but their service is offered 24/7.
@KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines):NEW: If you're not able to contact us by phone for rebooking, please send us a request via twitter. We will then ask for details via DM.
Delta Airlines is also available seven days a week, “around the clock,” averaging about 156 tweets per day with a team of 14 people.
Bringing up the rear is Air France, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific, who send out about 23, 19 and 6 tweets a day respectively. It seems like these three carriers might be operating under a dangerous delusion; while Air France has 23 additional handles dedicated to different countries, and both Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific have 12 more handles as well – their CS customer service response is shockingly low.
Perhaps they believe they are actively engaging their customers socially, but the truth is, they’re being blown right out of the water.
AA, Royal Dutch Airlines, Delta, and JetBlue have sunk their battleship.
From lost baggage and delayed departures to delectable discounts and getaway deals, airline customers need a place to both rant and rave. And they need to know someone is not only listening but responding. Fast.
Let’s give out a few medals
While JetBlue insists they’re not conducting CS via Twitter, their response rate is lightening fast; customers are getting answers in mere minutes; 8-10 on average. Gold.
Royal Dutch Airlines is taking a close second – thriving in in the 8-10 minute range – but has a few 20-minute responses sprinkled in that blight their otherwise stellar record. Silver.
Delta’s social service isn’t too shabby either – they’re getting back to their customers in 10-20 minute-response range. Bronze.
Finally…we have American Airlines who is all over the map; literally and socially. They say they don’t conduct social CS service…yet have the highest daily number of tweets of any airline. Adding to the confusion and inconsistency is that fact that some of their responses are the swiftest of all – boasting a 3-4 minute response rate – but most are in 10-15 minute window. But then…there are a good portion (about 1 in 10) that are in the 45+ minute range.
Perhaps these discrepancies or proverbial “ball-droppings” are due to unforeseen volume increases or a drop in the number of agents available.
The bottom line is… it’s not enough to simply answer. You have to do it fast… this isn’t an example of the age-old axiom, “better late than never.”
All our “finalists” may have different strategies – namely their operating hours of 24/7 vs. 9-5 – but when the social smoke clears, the airlines that have the SLAs of answering all complaints in under 10 minutes will rise to the top, earning customers’ respect, loyalty, and let’s not mince words, their money.
The social landscape gains speed every day. While the tortoise may be wise, he’ll never catch up to the hare; he’s simply too fast.
This isn’t a fable, this is the future. Make sure you’re swift or you’ll lose the race.
If you’re curious how these carriers stack-up in other realms of social media, check out these slides, State of Social Business: The Airlines Industry 2012 published by Headshift.Tweet