The best (and worst) ways airlines use Twitter for customer service

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There is an increasing number of people heading to social media to contact an airline brand, either to ask a question, make a complaint, or simply to share their experience, whether it’s positive or negative.

Twitter has rapidly turned into the customer service hub for the airline industry and it offers the opportunity for any brand to stand out from the competition, expanding its audience and even turning around a negative experience.

Not every brand is able (or willing) to follow the demands of its audience though, which ultimately affects a user’s stance towards the particular airline.

According to a survey by Millward Brown and Twitter, 40% of travelers have contacted a travel brand on Twitter, but only 28% of them received a response. However, 73% of the users that received a response felt more positively about the brand afterwards, which proves how Twitter may affect a customer’s opinion towards an airline company.

How do airline brands use Twitter for customer service then and what makes their presence special?

24/7 support

British Airways twitter account

There are many airline brands that provide a full-time customer service and they make sure they mention it on their about section, in order to encourage their audience to contact them any time during the day.

This enhances the positive attitude towards an airline, but it also raises the standards for the expected response time.

Creating an additional account for support

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Several airline brands experimented with the creation of a new account, exclusively for their customer service, with Air Asia creating @AskAirAsia, which promises to help with quick responses, provided that the travellers are aware of the working hours (and the timezone).

However, not every brand was satisfied with the idea of separating its accounts, and some of them decided to abandon the concept.

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Multilingual customer service

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Many international brands try to improve the customer service experience on Twitter by offering multilingual support, in order to deal with as many questions as possible.

KLM for example is able to respond in 13 languages, which improves the customers’ satisfaction (while it also requires a bigger team to help with the requests).

Offering help in real time

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There are many ways an airline brand may help travellers before or after a trip, provided that the staff is ready to jump in and solve any urgent problem.

Jet Airways uses the hashtag #JetInstant in order to help its customers stay up-to-date about their flight and solve all their problems.

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Dealing with complaints

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It’s common for a customer to head to Twitter and complain about a negative experience and it’s a challenge for airline brands to deal with all the angry customers in the most polite and helpful way.

Each case may be different, but the approach should always be the same, apologising for the incident, trying to make up for it.

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It helps to maintain a human approach in every single case, proving that you care about your customers.

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Turning around a complaint

It’s not always easy to turn around a complaint, but British Airways certainly did a great job at this tweet. In fact, it also got viral and provided an extra boost to the brand’s clever approach.

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Encouraging user-generated content

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Customers don’t use Twitter simply to complain, but they also like thanking a brand for the treatment they had during a recent trip.

More and more travellers share their photos with the airline brands, being more than willing to share their pleasant experience.

It’s up to the brand then to keep the conversation going, or even to ask for the permission to use the photos for its social accounts, showing its appreciation for the positive messages.

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Engaging with users

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Engagement starts when brands maintain their human approach and discuss with customers by leaving aside the promotional aspect.

This includes the use of emojis, the celebration of a customer’s birthday, or even asking further questions about a user’s tweet.

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Here’s how loyalty is blended with engagement for @AmericanAir.

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Using humour

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Humour can instantly build a positive stance towards a brand and it’s always appreciated when it’s delivered in the most appropriate way.

Both KLM and Delta found the perfect answer to the specific tweets, taking the branded reply to the next level.

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Positive attitude

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Customers can tell whether a brand is genuinely positive and this is reflected upon its whole feed.

It’s not just about being polite and positive in a single case, but it’s a general positive experience that helps travellers fall in love with a specific airline.

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Finding opportunities to reach new audience

Southwest Airlines decided to expand its audience by actually searching for key terms like “plane tickets” and “vacation”, in order to approach Twitter users and inform them about their offers.

Although not everyone would appreciate this approach, as it reminds us more of the direct, traditional marketing, it’s still an attempt to take advantage of Twitter’s audience, hoping to gain new loyal customers.

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Promoting great reviews

An easy and quick way to promote the users’ positive experience with your brand is to retweet their posts and add your branded message along with it.

American Airlines also uses the hashtag #AATeam when referring to its team, creating a stronger bonding between the brand and the customers.

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Rewarding travellers

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Everyone loves an exclusive offer or a free gift and many airline brands decide to reward their loyal customers, or even the luckiest ones, through contests they occasionally host.

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How KLM takes customer service to the next level

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KLM has a solid presence on Twitter and proves in action its focus on the great customer experience.

What’s impressive is its decision to update its Twitter header photo every five minutes, in order to inform its audience about the expected response time, depending on the status of its customer service at the exact moment.

How to annoy your customers

It seems that there are several airline brands that need to improve their customer service on Twitter and here are the most common problems:

Slow response rate

It’s not easy to keep up with all the requests, but it’s also not a good idea to reply after 3 days to a customer asking for your help.

Twitter is all about instant communication and a slow response rate won’t be helpful for impatient travellers.

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Provide generic answers

Yes, it’s helpful to create draft messages and keep them handy when replying to customers, but it’s still important to personalise them in order to prove that you actually care about every customer that contacts you.

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Send further links

Twitter users head to the social platform to find an answer as fast as possible and the idea of providing further links should be avoided if possible, by answering directly (even through a direct message).

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Lack of human element

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It’s important to know how to reply to upset customers, as this is the moment when they decide whether they’ll trust your brand from now on.

Do these two replies help a customer build a positive bonding with your brand?

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Send the wrong reply

Mistakes may happen, and an apology is certainly expected, but still, attention is important when dealing with customers, especially when it’s related to an urgent message.

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Lack of actual help

Twitter is nowadays part of a brand’s customer service, which means that users expect to receive an actual answer from the team.

There’s always a way to seem helpful and actually provide a solution, rather than apologising for an incident without being useful. Even if it’s a case that requires further investigation, it’s important to keep the conversation going and even go back if needed to help the customer.

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The bad cases of customer service mentioned above indicate that many airline brands, either smaller or bigger, can still improve their Twitter presence, in order to keep every single customer satisfied.

It may not be easy to commit to consistent customer service on Twitter, especially when the audience keeps increasing, but there’s also no point to maintain a mediocre social presence, if it only leads to negative experiences that hurt the brand’s image.

After all,  according to this infographic, 51% of people say that Twitter influenced their consideration of a travel brand, which means that there are no excuses for any brand to ignore Twitter as part of its customer service.

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