Improving customer data by monitoring social media sentiment in the airline industry

Customer engagement is all about building lasting relationships with your customers. To do so it is of extreme importance to know each one of your valuable customers and to know how to best approach them. Since social media has become such a huge phenomenon and it is safe to say that a large part of the population uses the online network and social media regularly, it is important for companies to have a high level of online interaction as well. By monitoring customers through social media, companies are able to get to know their customers on a personal level rather than just as a ‘buyer’ (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

Understanding why customers make certain purchases is much more important than whether or not they make a purchase at all. Therefor, social listening is important for businesses as it is, “the act of monitoring and analyzing digital conversation in a bid to understand what customers are saying about a brand, its competitors and its industry” (Griffith, 2016). Companies are able to collect subjective data, as customers share personal information, opinions, interests and are able to react to other posts via social media. It is therefor important for companies to follow the interactions and possibly even interact with their customers on these different social media platforms.

When it comes to the airline industry, social listening can be a very important tool as well. Airlines can use social listening to get ahead of an impending problem, show agility and a willingness to make sure customers are happy. It can also pinpoint a specific problem and find topics, products and/or services of a particular interest to their target market (Griffith, 2016). For example, customers may tell their airline whether they prefer an aisle seat to a window seat or if they would like to have the vegetarian meal instead of the beef but some things, however, like the fact that you always have a croissant and an apple juice in the airline lounge, you might not have told them. Lately, though, airlines have a way of knowing your preferences, even when you don’t tell them and we can thank social media for that (Carrington, 2013). Because of the speed with which an airline staff member can respond on social media, social media has also quickly become a favored platform for airlines’ customer service.

Southwest Airline, for example has made “knowing our customers on a much deeper level and trying to appeal to their preferences” a critical part of its strategy (Hickins, 2015). The airline understands that social media has created new ways to communicate with its customers and engage with them on time-sensitive issues. They have therefor created a Social Listening Center where solving pressing customer service issues such as lost luggage and providing “one-contact resolution” to whatever problem customers may be having, as opposed to having to e-mail or call (Hickins, 2015).They basically use their Social Listening Center to listen to all customers comments, questions and complaints all the time, be it while passengers are at home, at the airport or even in-flight and use this as an opportunity to deepen it’s relationship with it’s customers. Other airlines could definitely learn a thing or two from Southwest Airlines when it comes to social listening.

Consumers all over the world are basically swarming to the different social media platforms to ‘like’, share and post all different kinds of information, from photos to opinions, to personal interests and much more. Social listening enables airline companies to monitor, analyze and start understanding its customers on a personal level. If airlines wish to further engage with their customers it is important for them to incorporate social listening as a tool to collect more personal data of their clients, as there is a whole lot to learn from the content they will find on the different social media platforms.



Carrington, D. (2013). From tweets to GPS tracking: How airlines are getting to know you better. Retrieved 30 September, 2016, from

Griffith, G. (2016). Get to know customers better by monitoring social media sentiment. Retrieved 1 October, 2016, from

Hickins, M. (2015). Southwest Airlines Adds Social To Its Customer Engagement Strategy. Retrieved 12 October, 2016, from

Peelen, E. & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management (Second Edition). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.



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