Social Media has rapidly changed the Internet and transformed it into a “place where people interact, create and share experiences”. The arena gives organizations the opportunity to connect and build a relationship with the clients, from generating brand awareness to get loyal customers.
Within the airline industry, social media is used as a platform for brand development and product marketing. With this, improving customer services and passenger experiences. For example, through updating and responding to customer’s feedback, or direct communication via a chat service.
According to Peelen and Beltman, there are four steps to customer engagement in the social arena. These start with mapping out those customers who matter most to the company, and who in the end will produce the most profit. First of all, it is important to observe how clients talk about you. This can be done via specific invitations to the customer database, announce initiatives on packaging and by trying to be present where the clients are.
Secondly, it is necessary to engage with the visitors to let them participate. An example is shown by KLM who currently introduced the partnership with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to answer the customer questions. If a client asks a question through the chat service, the agents gets a proposed answer through AI. The program is trained to answer 60.000 KLM answers and questions. The provided answer will be checked by the agent and he/she decides whether it’s the right answer to question. If not, the agent can adjust it and send it across the appropriate media channel. Based on what the agent decides, the system learns and gets smarter in real time. (Elbers, 2016)
The third step is optimization, the community should be kept alive and know that the company is engaging with the customers by representing their brand image. This could be done via news updates, engaging questions, interesting content, etcetera. In this step the airline company represents their image, therefore it is important that it knows the audience. If a client replies in a formal way, the agent should respond in the same way. On the contrary, if a client asks a question in an informal way the agent should interact with them this same way.
For instance, in 2013 AirAsia celebrated 2 million likes by offering free seats to their Facebook followers. The company of AirAsia was one of the first airlines to embrace social media marketing. Furthermore, they post contests to engagement with the hashtag LoveIsInTheAir, asking visitors for photos with their loved ones. This contest give customers a chance to win free seats. (Tint, 2014)
Finally, an airline company should measure the results from the previous steps and discuss how these engagement platforms could improve the relationships with the clients, how it supports product launches and finally how it increases the market shares and conversion rate. A perfect tool to measure the results is by using Google Analytics. The outcomes of different years should be compared to each other and based on these outcomes goals must be set for the future.
It is important for the airline industry to know how the social media arena is used and which are the most relevant channels for their target market. The four steps of Peelen et all, should be used by the airline industry to effectively use the different social media tools with the finally aim to measure the results. These results will help the industry to give an inside on the current situation and indicate whether or not changes need to be made. (Peelen, 2013)
Customer engagement is growing within the tourism industry, if an airline does not implement the right social media strategy to attract its customers the competitor will always be one step ahead of them.
Author: Jade van Huisseling
Elbers L. (September 30, 2016) Travelnieuws: KLM gaat een stapje verder in AI Customer service via social. Retrieved on October 5, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.travelnext.nl/travelnieuws-klm-gaat-stapje-ai-customer-service-social.html
Peelen and Beltman (2013) Second Edition. Customer Relationship Management, Pearson, 2013
Tint (May 11, 2014) 3 Brands That Use Social Media Service to Boost Happiness. Retrieved on October 3, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.tintup.com/blog/3-brands-that-use-social-media-in-customer-service-to-boost-happiness/