Yesterday we had the pleasure of spending an informative hour with Shashank Nigam as he presented a webinar on Customer Service. Shashank is CEO of SimpliFlying and one of the top thought leaders of social media in the airline industry. His global experience not only makes him a top consultant to the airlines, but also one of their top customers.

Here are some of the highlights from the session.

Customer service is real-time

Through social media, customer service has gone real-time and the expectation is now 24/7. Airline customers are turning to social media as another customer service channel. In fact, per Shashank, 71.4% of consumers’ tweets to the airlines are customer service related. Voice calls into customer service centers are projected to decline this year and there are cases where social conversations numbers are equal to voice call numbers.

With this increase in social media customer service traffic, consumer expectations have become more real-time. When asked about satisfaction levels through these new channels, Shashank sees that consumers are pleased to feel acknowledged even if the resolution is not immediate. While some of the top US Airlines are still well over an hour, the top two have their average response times to less than 15 minutes.

Customer Service Social Media Webinar

Infographic from Eezeer Data Lab (http://eezeer.com/datalab/airline-monthly-report/2012-03)

How are airlines driving real-time customer service?

Share local knowledge

One of the most innovative tools being used by CityJet is their Twitter concierge. The aim of the program is to provide personalized recommendations to travelers who request them. This helps drive their goals in engagement, customer service and revenue. Goals and KPI’s of social customer service programs need to translate back to the core metrics of the brand and marketing.

“Twitter has become the ‘go to’ tool for customer service within the travel industry. The majority of our passengers are business travelers and the Twitter Concierge taps into their need for a swift, efficient and seamless travel service.” – Christine Ourmieres, CEO CityJet

Airlines and Twitter

Provide personalized attention

London Heathrow Airport has a Twitter Concierge program that is not only focused on the expected topics like flight delays and gate changes, but it’s open to general questions from travelers such as where to find a nice pint of cider in the airport.

Combining the necessary information with the helpful human feel shows positive results at London Heathrow. Their goals of engagement and customer service are met while providing personalized advice.

Heathrow Tweet

Heathrow Tweet 2

Be where you’re needed

Delta was one of the first airlines to dedicate resources to social media, recognizing the importance of acknowledgement and resolution. The need to give their customers what they want led to a guaranteed reply within 10 minutes on Twitter, plus dedicated social media customer service and support in Spanish and Portuguese.

So how do you get started?

Shashank shared some great tips on taking those first steps.

  • Select a team or individual to run your social media efforts and support them with Subject Matter Experts.
  • Get started with existing customers. Your organization may not have a large social following, so reaching out to your existing customer base to engage and scale from there.
  • Translate the metrics back to the core brand marketing goals.

Check out the full version of the webinar here, and be sure to leave questions you have in the comments section below.

Building Stronger Customer Relationships: Making Your Brand More Personal With Social Media