When you have a problem with your airline over the course of your trip, how do you deal with it? Talk to an airline employee, if you can find one? Call customer service? Or just sit back and take it? Those reactions are so yesterday.
According to a new study from Conversocial, the biggest trend in airline customer service is the use of social media – both public networks and private messaging – over the traveler’s smartphone. And some airlines are a lot more responsive to their customers than others, the study found.
“Armed with their smartphones, social channels ablaze, the empowered customer has more voice and choice than ever,” the company observed. “Now customers live out loud, they live tweet if their flight is delayed or post photos on Instagram of shoddy inflight conditions (especially if you have GoGo at your fingertips). The result being a truly ‘always on’ social mobile flyer pre, post and inflight.”
Conversocial tracked the Twitter activity of the 20 leading airlines in North America and Europe and measured the volume of messaging, how responsive the airlines were to customer tweets, how long it took them to respond, and whether the airline tried to resolve the customer’s concern “in-channel” on the spot.
Among North American airlines, Southwest was found to be the most responsive to direct “@” mentions, with a 38 percent response rate. The fastest average response time was recorded by the social media team at Alaska Airlines, at 2 minutes and 34 seconds.
For all North American airlines, the average response rate was 24 percent, and the average response time 1 hour and 5 minutes. European airlines lagged behind their North American competitors, with a response rate of 19 percent and average response time of 3 hours 40 minutes.
Most North American carriers logged average response times via social media of less than 30 minutes, with JetBlue in second place at 5 minutes 3 seconds, Delta at 8 minutes 45 seconds, Southwest at 10 minutes 2 seconds, Virgin America at 16 minutes 21 seconds, and American at 25 minutes 5 seconds. However, United lagged way behind its competitors with an average response time of 2 hours 10 minutes — even though (or perhaps because) it had the highest rate of mentions per hour, and Spirit Airlines was the worst of all at 5 hours 48 minutes.
“Speed of response is…a key driver of customer satisfaction,” the company said. “Even when an issue cannot be resolved immediately, it’s important that a service representative show the customer – and everyone who might see the interaction – that the company has heard the message and is working on a solution.”
The report noted that customer preference for interaction with airlines via social media is shifting from public postings to private messaging, like via Facebook Messenger, which combines live chat with smartphone notifications.
“The most sophisticated channel in the social media customer service segment is messaging applications, which are encroaching quickly on email and live chat channels,” Conversocial said. “This not only reflects the more personal approach customers seem to prefer, but the growing importance played by mobile in social media use. The advancement of messaging has created a live-chat experience, built for mobile…In general, social media user behavior has changed as well. Private messaging is the new public posting.”
Although travelers are shifting from public to private messaging, “This doesn’t let airlines off the hook for authentic, human service,” Conversocial told its airline customers. “The social customer will keep one finger on the escalation button and one eye on the prize when dealing with you. If you will not resolve in-channel or respond quickly, those public takedowns of your brand are still on the table.”
Readers: Have you used social media postings or messaging to report or resolve issues with your airline during a trip? What kind of response did you get?
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