How KLM uses China’s WeChat for customer service

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China is a key market for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and it is engaging specialized CRM tools on its WeChat account to engage them for customer service.

After implementing a tool that pools its WeChat customer service queries into its Salesforce platform, KLM says it is processing inquiries and comments from Chinese customers twice as fast as it had been previously.

Chinese travellers are making more than 100 million overseas trips each year. The Dutch airline is positioning itself as the gateway to Europe and has been quick to recognize the marketing value of WeChat.

With over 600 million active users, WeChat is China’s most popular social messaging app as this slide from We Are Social’s Digital in 2016 report shows.

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“WeChat is the biggest platform in China, offering us the opportunity to connect to customers and prospects,” says Martine van der Lee, social technology manager, KLM.

A quick look at the websites of Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Air New Zealand, Qantas, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines however, suggests international airlines are yet to fully embrace this versatile app as a 24-hour customer service channel.

All of these airlines have Chinese language pages. (A good starting point.) And many are customized and localized for their Chinese audiences, as this Emirates Chinese homepage demonstrates.

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Most allow Chinese customers to book flights in a Chinese language format also. Here’s an example from British Airways:

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Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) and Youku (a Chinese video hosting platform) are the preferred digital channels for many of these airlines to engage their Chinese audiences.

Here is Air New Zealand’s Youku page:

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And the Weibo pages for Qantas and Singapore Airlines:

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It’s worth noting that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google+ are all blocked in China. (Not LinkedIn though!) Therefore, while appropriate for global audiences, these are not as relevant on a “follow us” page for Chinese consumers.

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Aside from KLM, Thai Airways is the only airline in this group actively promoting a WeChat account on its website.

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Why WeChat matters

Users agree to follow a brand on WeChat by scanning the QR code with their mobile phone. Because the QR scanner is embedded in the WeChat app, connecting with the brand is a seamless process. Once connected, the user is pushed content in the form of news, promotions and discounts. This allows brands a much more personalized level of interaction with their fans.

KLM has 88,000 followers on WeChat, growing at 0.5% and 1% each week. It credits this to good service, engaging content, good commercial offers and better campaigns.

In addition, it is encouraging its customers to use the platform as a 24-hour-a-day customer service channel. (This screenshot from the KLM website appears on its customer service page and can be viewed in both English and Chinese.)

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Once connected on WeChat, users can interact with the brand directly in the form of text messages. According to the KLM website, Chinese users can expect a response within one hour.

Previously, this process was operated manually. However, since partnering with cloud communications platform Nexmo, KLM is now assimilating its WeChat customer service queries into its global Salesforce CRM platform. This has made the process more automated, and customer response times twice as fast.

With this new integration, KLM customer service agents no longer have to open a separate window to facilitate the WeChat queries. All communication flows through the same Salesforce platform the airline employs for its other digital channels.

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Redefining B2C communication through chat apps

Chat apps are hugely popular in Asia. In addition to WeChat in China, Line is the dominant messaging app in Japan, Taiwan and Thailand, while parts of Southeast Asia are using Viber and WhatsApp. Other popular apps across APAC include Kakao and Facebook Messenger.

Nexmo is working with brands to integrate a number of these messaging apps into their CRM platforms.

“As these global brands are talking to their customers globally, they are realizing they have to be present where their customers are and it’s just a reality that in many of these countries that these messaging chat apps are the primary platforms where their customers are,” says Sumit Suman, product management lead, Nexmo.

Business to consumer (B2C) communications will continue to be redefined as more brands integrate messaging apps into their CRM strategies. For the time being, KLM is proving it has an edge over some of its competitors.

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