Today’s travelers are empowered and we have to deal with them differently. Social media is no longer an afterthought of marketing. It’s integral to the airline business and that’s how we’ve got to think about it.
Today, passengers carry multiple devices. Consider that on an A380, an average of 450 smartphones, 213 laptops and 207 tablets can be found carried onboard by passengers. How do you satisfy them? Do you promise them broadband speeds for each device? Maybe, but most airlines cannot.
What happens when something goes wrong? Are you, as an airline, ready to deal with customers with a gripe in real-time as they share their concerns through social media?
The key word there is ‘real-time’. It’s not “we will reply within 14 days” nor is it “we will reply 24 hours later”. It’s real-time and it makes all the difference.
KLM is one of the best airlines in social media. They handle 40,000 passenger queries a week on Twitter and Facebook.
That includes more than 2,000 replies to actual passengers who are either in the mode of travel or who have a booking already.
KLM has 152 people dedicated to social media, including at least two full-time staff dedicated to focus only on passengers who are on the ground at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, or who are posting updates on Facebook or Twitter while in a plane – because they feel these are the most important customers at that point in time. If KLM can resolve their problems and address their concerns, they’ll be happy.
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So when we work with airlines who want to be as good as KLM, we don’t say “let’s get you scaled to reply 40,000 queries a week.” Instead we tell them to start with a reasonable target. For example, start by identifying 2,000 queries per week of those who are flying your airline. Thereafter, we can scale up from there.
On a Turkish Airlines flight equipped with OnAir from Los Angeles to Istanbul, a passenger complained on Facebook it was too warm on the plane and that in the future, he would fly other airlines instead.
Turkish Airlines quickly replied that they had informed the pilot of his concern. Just eight minutes later, the passenger posted to Facebook again: the flight attendant had attended to him and worked out a compromise.
Impressed by Turkish Airlines’ quick resolution online and offline, he declared that he would choose to fly Turkish Airlines as often as he could.
Social media can also be a revenue driver if airlines bear in mind to measure the usage and impact.
For every euro that KLM spent on social media, they make at least €1.20 in direct sales and €2.8 in indirect sales. Volaris in Mexico gets two million Mexican pesos a month from offers and sales banners on Facebook.
WestJet in Canada had an April Fool’s video that went viral online and generated 4,000 new bookings within 24 hours with its special coupon code.
It’s apparent. Social media is no longer an afterthought of marketing. It goes way beyond marketing and airline marketers must recognize this.