Differentiating factors in the airline industry are few and far between. Though amenities may vary from flight to flight, planes are relatively equal, and they arrive at the same destinations. Many airlines have tried to gain a competitive edge through discounted pricing, and some still base ad campaigns on their low fee structures. However, a vast array of travel sites give bargain-hunters the ability to find rock-bottom fares at the touch of a button, which makes it impossible to consistently win price wars.

The only remaining opportunity to set your company apart is through extraordinary customer service. Travelers can be fiercely loyal to their preferred brands, gladly paying a little more to be assured of a hassle-free flight. Below is a perfect example of a passenger who received great customer service from WestJet and was happy to publicly express his appreciation and loyalty to them afterwards!

One study shows that customers who received a friendly response to their Tweet are willing to pay an average of nine dollars more for their flight. In a time when airline services have been cut to the bare minimum, this extra boost can make a difference. Clearly, social customer care is a must-have for airlines to gain a competitive edge.

New Consumer Expectations Mean Airlines Must Evolve

The nearly universal use of social media has changed consumer expectations forever when it comes to how issues are resolved. Today’s travelers expect to reach agents at any time of day or night, and they want the entire process handled through their preferred communication method. In many cases, customers are reaching out to the organizations they do business with through social media pages, and they express frustration when the response directs them to traditional phone and web service channels.

Airlines that offer start-to-finish social media customer issue resolution are gaining an edge over less-evolved competitors. In fact, research shows that airlines who fail to respond via social channels can expect a churn rate of 15 percent among existing customers.

In the early years of social media engagement, Qantas faced challenges after trolls jumped on board a hashtag they were using and tweeted complaints – some potentially real, but many clearly made up. Qantas is now the subject of academic case studies on mishandled social customer service. JetBlue, on the other hand, receives regular kudos for its fast, thorough responses. This sort of positive media attention is more valuable than paid advertising.

Making a Successful Transition to Social Customer Service

Social media is a public forum, which can be good or bad, depending on the quality of your service. Delighted customers are likely to share screenshots of their interactions with friends and family, spreading positive messages and promoting your organization. However, poor experiences will be shared as well — and this negative publicity can swell to shocking proportions when online news sources pick up the story. So it’s important to have a team that can effectively address any type of customer engagement.

Fortunately, your business already has the most important resources needed for successful social customer service: knowledgeable, experienced agents. When staffing your social customer care team, choose tenured agents from other channels that have shown themselves to be brand ambassadors. These individuals understand your culture, policies and processes, and they demonstrate the best customer service you have to offer. As social customer care agents, these individuals are well-suited for the task of providing accurate, efficient issue resolution, ensuring that any interactions that are exposed to public view reflect well on your organization.

Have a Dedicated Social Team

A common question brands ask us when building their social care team is if they should add social media issue resolution to the responsibilities of current phone or web agents. Although we do suggest using tenured agents, combining these job functions is not recommended as there is a real risk to the quality of agents’ interactions when they are wearing multiple hats. Many of the brands we work with consider the transition from phone agent to social agent as a promotion for their employee. It’s important to note, however, that social care agents also require a different set of skills than agents on traditional channels. If you’re curious to learn what skills and characteristics are needed for social agents you’ll definitely want to watch our recent masterclass, Setting Up a Successful Social Care Team, as we discuss this.

In addition to having a dedicated care team, monitoring agent performance is critical because social media interactions are so public. One inappropriate response can mean a viral nightmare, leading to thousands of negative impressions of your organization. Instead, create a team that focuses exclusively on social customer service to ensure the highest possible quality in each interaction.

If you have any questions about how to monitor your agents performance or set up your team, feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to help you! And if you just want to learn more about how your airline can create a world-class social service strategy then check out the Sparkcentral e-book, The Airline Executive’s Playbook for Successful Social Care. This guide includes proven tactics and real-world examples to ensure a successful transition for your organization.

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