KLM and Social Listening: What Can Other Airlines Learn?

The rise of social media is both a blessing and a curse for companies. Customers are now able to share unlimited praise or devastating criticism via their social profiles, while also easily sharing these reviews with their entire network. Another thing customers now do is ask their questions, which used to go through customer support, via social media. When managed correctly, companies could improve their brand image dramatically.

58% of marketers in the United Kingdom said that brand image and customer satisfaction improved when their companies started engaging on social media in real time (Immediate Future, 2014). Social media engagement or ‘social listening’ means that companies monitor and analyse conversations involving the company on social channels, in order to understand what is being said about the brand, the industry and the competition. If companies opt for social listening they can show that they care about their customers and are willing to change their products (Griffith, 2016).

Monitoring comments and questions on social media is a standard procedure for most airlines, but there is one airline that takes to crown when it comes to social listening: KLM. The airline started focusing on social media engagement in 2009 after a volcano in Iceland erupted and almost 10 million travellers had to deal with delays or cancellations. The KLM call centers could not handle all the calls and e-mails anymore so the company made a very smart decision: they came up with a social media room, where KLM employees from every department (even CEO Peter Hartman) volunteered to answer questions on social media. After this event, and after realizing that it worked, KLM decided to stick with the social media room (ter Haar, 2015).

Apparently this was a good decision because last year SocialBakers called them the company with ‘the best social customer care in the world’. In 2014 KLM answered 80.000 questions and their response percentage was 98.5%. 40% of all questions asked on social media aimed at Dutch companies are for KLM, this is also 30% of all questions aimed at the global airline industry. Not only the response rate is high, the company also responds surprisingly quickly. The average response time of the KLM team is 1 hour and 35 minutes, while the global average of the airline industry is 4 hours and 22 minutes. On top of that the airline is able to answer questions 24/7 in 14 languages (McCulloch, 2015).

So, what has KLM learned over the past few years and what can other airlines adopt in their own social strategy?

  1. Be fast
    KLM noticed that their customers start to complain after waiting 20 minutes for an answer, while it is almost impossible for the company to respond to everyone immediately, they are trying to get their response time down to 30 minutes.
  2. Stay personal
    People respond best to answers that are not automated, they want a personal touch and the feeling that someone is actually putting effort in solving their problem(s).
  3. Stay on the same page
    When KLM customers ask questions like ‘Can I change my ticket for my upcoming flight to New York?’, KLM does not reply with a link to their terms and conditions but try to find out if is possible for that specific ticket. Do not make your customers leave the social media channel which they used to sent the question. (ter Haar, 2015).

The fact that the KLM takes the crown in social listening is already impressive, but the most impressive thing is that they seem to excel in customer support via every channel. It does not matter if a customer contacts them by email or phone, the response time and the quality of assistance will always be the same. A lot of airlines can learn from this!

Author: Eva Manrique


  1. G. Griffith. (September 2016). Get To Know Customers Better By Monitoring Social Media Sentiment. Retrieved on October 2, 2016 from http://raconteur.net/business/get-to-know-customers-better-by-monitoring-social-media-sentimen
  2. G. ter Haar. (April 2015). What Has KLM Learned From 5 Years Of Social Media Service. Retrieved on October 2, 2016 from https://blog.klm.com/what-has-klm-learned-from-5-years-of-social-media-service/ 
  3. Immediate Future. (2014). In The Social Moment: Real-time Social Engagement. Retrieved on October 2, 2016 from  http://immediatefuture.co.uk/resource/in-the-social-moment-real-time-social-engagement/# 
  4.  A. McCulloch. (March, 2015). KLM: Putting Social Customer Care First. Retrieved on October 2, 2016 from https://www.socialbakers.com/blog/2374-klm-putting-social-customer-care-first

2 thoughts on “KLM and Social Listening: What Can Other Airlines Learn?”

  1. Good advise, Eva, but do not limit this to social media strategy. What makes KLM’s Customer care so great is that they give the same attention to their passengers via the other channels as well. No matter if you contact by phone, email or via social media, their service and response time is the same. This is often not the case with other companies.


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