The digital voice of the customer -it gives data. Are airlines listening to it?

Often we can hear the saying – Data is the king! But is it really true? Data is just details, notifications of actions taken. It becomes information when data has a meaning. Data reveals something about the customer’s identity and profile and when organizations use this information, it becomes knowledge (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Understanding individual customers helps to build the relationship with them. CRM can analyse relevant customer data and use it in the marketing activities.

To build a wholesome customer knowledge, data has to be compiled from different sources. Customer databases are a crucial factor for company’s success. Social media channels are another source for data. People talk on social media, they complain, suggest, adore and hate. Some of these people are your customers. Not always are they aware that you are listening.

Still underestimated by some companies, social media carries a lot of data that can be used as useful information for the company. It is not anymore only about the likes and shares. Social listening can be used as a research tool. “Social listening can pinpoint particular problems in a business, discover how competitors are doing and find topics of particular interest to a target market” (Griffith, 2016). It captures mentions of your brand, competitors, topics etc. across the internet.

The airline industry is customer service orientated. People rely on airline companies to bring them from one place to another in a safe and pleasant way. Not always everything runs smooth. Often there are delays, cancellations, changes etc. This is an industry where unpredictable events has to be taken into consideration. Social Media allows airline companies to monitor what people are saying, what are they complaining about, what they want etc.

So, how can airlines benefit from social listening? A member of communication team of JetBlue – Morgan, revealed a great example on how social listening can improve services. A customer of the JetBlue once was complaining on social media that he has to pay a fee for his bike despite it is foldable and fits into his suitcase. Tweet was received in an afternoon. It turned into a conversation and on the next morning JetBlue made changes in their policy that allowed to take folding bikes that fitted into checked bags with no extra fee (JetBlue, 2016).

Another airline company – Southwest Airlines in 2014 started a 30-person “social business” department. It also includes a listening center that also works as a hub for various groups of the organization. Groups from HR, sales, IT and others often go by to see how the information collected from social listening can be applied in their departments. Once, this department ran a marketing campaign #FeesDontFly that rewarded people who were talking about about other airlines’ hidden fees (Pathak, 2015).

Social media provides airlines with a lot of data. It is crucial to listen to what customers are saying about you. Social listening is not just about the communication with the customers, the increase of their satisfaction and engagement. Is is also an important research tool. It can reveal useful information about competitors or flaws in the product, if used right.


Griffith G. (2016). Get to know customers better by monitoring social media sentiment.Retrieved October 2, 2016 from

JetBlue. (2016). A day in the life: Social Media. Retriewed October 2, 2016 from

Pathak S. (2015). How Sothwest Airlines turned social media into social business. Retriewed October 2, 2016 from

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


2 thoughts on “The digital voice of the customer -it gives data. Are airlines listening to it?”

  1. Social listening is indeed extremely important! Our ‘own’ KLM is doing a great job in social listening and is considered THE example for other airlines.


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