The Importance of Social Media with the Focus on the Airline Industry

Social media platforms are essential tools in today’s society that many people do not want to disclaim anymore. A statistic has shown, that “social networking is the top online activity in the US, with the average American spending 37 minutes per day” (Karr, D., 2014). Due to the popularity and the increasing number of participants, more and more businesses, amongst others many airlines, realized that social media is a useful tool and a general foundation of their marketing strategy to reach prospects and customers (Karr, D., 2014).

When introducing Social Customer Engagement Management, getting closer to customers is the main priority of businesses. This is why they create social media programs, because they provide the opportunity to do so (Parasnis, C. 2011). Research has shown that social media is not only used to increase web traffic and increase brand exposure, it is also essential to acquire more customers. To be more specific, 70% of B2C marketers have gained new customers through Facebook (Karr, D. (2014).

Understanding the customer’s value in such a unique environment is a key element for companies, especially because often there is a gap between what the company thinks their customers want and what a customer really wants (Parasnis, C. 2011). Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that the social media arena cannot only positively, but also negatively affect the brand, depending on comments, reactions and interactions. Are people actually interested in getting to know a brand, establishing contact and interacting with a company or are they just focused on making profit themselves? Taking this into account, a statistic has stated that promotions and discounts are the number one reason for customers to follow brands on social media, followed by information about the latest news and customer service (Karr, D., 2014).

Companies need to reflect positively on customers by answering politely, quickly and with a helpful attitude. A statistic of 2014 has stated that 49% show positive reactions towards the interactions with brands on Facebook and 55% on twitter, whereas 20% of users negatively react on interactions on both platforms (Karr, D., 2014). This shows, that improvements are always necessary and recommended.

KLM, for example, offers service on social media 24/7, by responding within an hour and helping with requests within a day. Moreover, they offer assistance in more than 10 languages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 2015). Nowadays, KLM almost reaches 10 million likes on Facebook. Comparing their social media strategy to Lufthansa, the company aims to be wherever their customers are. Since 2009 they provide a Facebook page, counting almost two million likes. Up-to-date information, news and daily offers can be found as well as discussions about service issues can be hold directly with the company (Lufthansa, 2015).

In the previous years, the presence of airline companies is growing larger on social media and the interactions with the companies are increasing. For example, “there has been a 60% increase in the number of tweets received by airlines between February 2011 and March 2011. In March 2011, airlines received 101,400 tweets and sent out more than 24,000 replies” (Hameed, B., 2011). Moreover, 40% of airlines focus more on their social media presence by expanding their social media team. Employees from customer service, marketing corporate communications and e-commerce are brought together (Hameed, B., 2011).

To conclude, the availability of airlines on social media platforms increased significantly due to the rising popularity of social media. Social media is often used as a foundation of a company’s marketing strategy and research has shown, that customers react on it. For example, 46% of all web users take a look at social media platforms when they make a purchase and approximately 37% of all twitter users will buy a product from a brand they follow (Hameed, B., 2011). Airlines can deliver customer service, give information, provide up-to-date news and interact with customers. When they provide positive moments of truth, there is even a chance that prospects move up the Customer Relationship Pyramid by becoming a customer.  

Bibliography

Hameed, B. (2011), How the Airline Industry is Using Social Media to Fuel Growth, Retrieve from http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/how-the-airline-industry-is-using-social-media-to-fuel-growth-infographic/68707

Karr, D. (2014), 2014 Statistics and trends for businesses on social media, Retrieved from https://www.marketingtechblog.com/2014-statistics-trends-businesses-social-media/

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (2015), 24/7 service via social media, Retrieved from https://www.klm.com/travel/nl_en/plan_and_book/klm_on_social_media/24_7_service_and_assistance/index.htm

Lufthansa (2015), “Go where our customers are”, Retrieved from http://newsro om.lufthansa.com/facebook

Parasnis, C.H.B.G. (2011),”From social media to social customer relationship management”, Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 39 Iss 5 pp. 30 – 37

The Importance of Customer Experiences in the Airline Industry

In the aviation industry, good customer experiences are of great significance. Customers are the most important factor in this industry, because airlines depend on their customers – without customers, airlines would not exist! Therefore, companies have to understand the people’s needs and wants in order to deliver unique experiences. This can be done by making the customer feel special with a more personalized experience or sending a follow up e-mail, for example. Emirates, for instance, provides the so called ‘Knowledge-driven Inflight Service’, which makes it possible for the airline crew to review previous trips customers have taken with the carrier before. Thus, they know about the customer’s preferences and issues that might have occurred during their previous travels (R. Kollau, 2012). Based on that, improvements can be made and personalized service can be provided.

Focusing on Ryanair, some people have complained about them and their customer service in the past. However, real life examples show that they do provide personalized customer service; when a woman claimed for a refund because her mother-in-law passed away, she received a reply within hours with kind words and the acceptance of refunding her trip or when a passenger was sick during the flight and directly received the attention and help of the cabin crew (Ryanair, 2015). This shows that the company puts effort in providing good customer service and shows understanding for customer’s situations. Nevertheless, focusing on the company’s personal contact hours, they offer service of 12 to 13 hours on workdays and personal live chats during the day (Ryanair, 2015), whereas KLM for example, provides a 24/7 customer service (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 2015).

Unfortunately, many times passengers have complaints about their journey, often already during the booking process. For instance, hidden costs occur at the last moment or problems with payment methods arise. People get frustrated and search for a different flight. In this case, companies can use the path analysis, which allows them to analyze the path customers take through the internet. Google, Expedia, advertisement on social media or directly via the website are some examples of different paths. Thus, airlines can recognize where problems occur and based on that, change certain tools to create a good and easy path through all different channels, as this leads to the purchase of products.

Moreover, airlines maintain points of interactions, for example at the booking process, the check-in, the boarding and the inflight experience itself. Companies should use the richer data to aim to exceed their expectations (Clayton & Hilz, 2015). For instance, some passengers might have seating preferences, while others are more concerned about food and beverages during the flight, because certain health issues might exist.

Once a relationship with a person exists, companies aim to seek loyal, repeated customers. To find out how they perform and how willing they are to continue the relationship, the retention analysis is a beneficial tool to apply. It is used to keep up with customers and to follow their path to prevent them from dropping off the customer lifetime pyramid. This kind of marketing activity is considered to be the most responsive one, as by knowing what the customers’ needs are increases loyalty. Flight upgrades and club memberships might be a good service to accommodate customers, such as KLM’s Flying Blue. With this offer, customers earn miles and enjoy exclusive benefits every time they book a flight with KLM, Air France or other partners (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 2015). Emirates on the other hand, provides special offers to business and first class customers, for example a complimentary Chauffer-drive service to the airport and to the final destination. Also families receive special services such as special entertainment for children during the inflight and the provision of complimentary strollers at Dubai airport (Emirates, 2015).

Nevertheless, some customers are likely to discontinue using the product or service an airline offers. To identify those customers and to find solutions to bring them back, the Churn analysis is used (StatSoft, 2015). In this case, the companies have to examine the causes and based on that make improvements.

To conclude, good and satisfying service always has to be provided throughout all channels in the airline industry, especially because customers are most valuable for the companies. There is always a risk to lose customers, but by following their paths and by using rich data to meet the customer’s expectations, this risk can be lowered, and therefore, it will be beneficial for both parties, the customers and the company’s financial aims.

Bibliography

Clayton, E., Hilz, A. (2015), 2015 Aviation Trends, Retrieved from http://www.strategyand.pwc.com/perspectives/2015-aviation-trends

Emirates (2015), The Emirates Experience, Retrieved from http://www.emirates.com/english/flying/

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (2015), Contact about flight bookings, Retrieved from https://www.klm.com/travel/nl_en/customer_support/customer_support/contact/about/flight_bookings.htm

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (2015), Earn Miles and enjoy exclusive benefits, Retrieved from https://www.klm.com/travel/de_en/flying_blue/about-flyingblue/all_about_flying_blue/index.htm

Kollau, R. (2012), Emirates provides 1,000 pursers with HP tablets as part of ‘knowledge-driven’ in-flight service drive, Retrieved from http://www.airlinetrends.com/2012/12/01/emirates-knowledge-based-in-flight-service-hp-elitepad/

Ryanair (2015), Customer Feedback, Retrieved from https://www.ryanair.com/en/customer-feedback/

Ryanair (2015), Frequently Asked Questions, Retrieved from https://www.ryanair.com/ie/questions/where-are-you-calling-from/

StatSoft (2015), Churn Analysis, Retrieved from http://www.statsoft.com/Solutions/Financial/Churn-Analysis

Creation of Positive Experiences through Customer Journey Mapping in the Airline Industry

There are various aspects that account for a holiday experience, starting from the process of booking until the arrival back in one’s home country. Especially airline companies plays an important role, as people want to arrive at their destination smoothly in order to start their holiday with pleasure. Therefore, it is important that the expectations of travelers are met, as “it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one negative one” (J. Dent, 2013). Sometimes however, there is a gap between the reality of the point of view of the customer and the perspective of the company. In order to minimize this gap, the approach of Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) is used to review the own actions from the perspective of the customer (S. Zeidler, 2010). To be more specific, this approach is relevant to track and describe the experiences customers make when purchasing or encountering a service, but taking their responses and actions into account (J. Dent, 2013).

The experiences of customers are most valuable to companies, as happy customers form a basis for a relationship with the company. However, people have distinctive values, needs and wants and thereby varying expectations, which result in different experiences. Companies need to define different personas in order to satisfy every individual and to reach customer loyalty. In this context, Customer Journey Mapping plays a central role as it serves as an identifier of the desires and expectations of each traveler individually.

In the airline industry different personas are identified, namely families, leisure or business travelers as well as people with special needs (J. Dent, 2013). For example, when serving families, it is important to set a focus on the entertainment of the children on board, as the happiness of children contributes to the satisfaction of parents. People with special needs on the other hand require more attention from their arrival at the airport until their departure.

Moreover, it is important to deliver a satisfying customer experience throughout all touchpoints, meaning that airlines have to commit a valuable experience from the first process of booking, for example via their website, until the customers arrive at their destination. Adding value to an individual traveler’s experience from the beginning is important, as “the experience matters to airline customers as just as much as the destination” (J. Dent, 2013).

Of great significance is also the fact that customers want to receive the feeling of understanding and security. It is important that the airline crew can identify themselves with the different personas, via personal communication and assistance, for instance. A real life example shows, that customers can experience a better journey when positive awareness of employees meet insecurities of passengers. A pilot of Germanwings, for example, talked personally to his passengers a few days after the dramatic fatality of another Germanwings machine. In this context, identification and understanding of values are examples of how to create a positive customer experience.

All in all, Customer Journey Mapping and the defining of different personas are essential tools to establish a relationship with the customer by retracing the own actions from the perspective of the customer and by identifying their desires.

Bibliography:

Zeidler (2010), Mit Customer-Journey-Mapping die Kundenzufriedenheit steigern, Retrieved 20/09/2015 from http://www.gruenderszene.de/allgemein/mit-customer-journey-mapping-die-kundenzufriedenheit-steigern

J. Dent (2013), Customer Journey Mapping: A walk in customers’ shoes, Ascend.

 

The Importance of Digital Engagement in the Airline Industry with the Focus on Baby Boomers

Creating a good customer relationship and implementing a strategic customer engagement is important for every organization in order to reach a long term relationship with their clients. Companies aim to maximize their value, and since customers are most valuable to organizations, it is crucial to apply the five principals of customer engagement management of Marketo. When conducting these principles, companies associate with their customers individually and based on what they do. Moreover, they are connected continuously over time, based on their outcome as well as everywhere they are (Marketo, 2015).

Furthermore, high service standards and cooperations are of great importance. This can be reached by implementing an omni-channel service. In this way, the company starts their interactions in one channel and completes their cooperations in another. People will be delivered the same consistent experience over time. For example in the airline industry, customers should have the same experience when booking a flight no matter if they use a mobile app, the website or go to a travel agency. All channels need to deliver a smooth and easy path to lead customers to purchase a product without any complications.

Not only the omni-channel approach is used to deliver customers the same consistent experience in every channel, but also the relationship culture is important to focus more on customers. In the aviation industry, airlines need to understand their clients and be able to emphasize with them. The relationship culture is also of great significance because airlines depend on their customers, good reputations as well as positive recommendations and word of mouth (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

Setting the focus on a certain target market, the “Baby-Boomers”, some changes might be crucial to create positive customer engagement. This age range includes people born between mid-1940 and 1960’s. Even though many people from this age group are technologically up to date, and use and work on the computer a lot, there are still people from this generation who are not familiar with today’s technology. In consequence, it is important to find a way to connect this target group in form of digital engagement via their website.

To fill this gap by focusing on the needs of the older generations, airlines should implement certain steps to make it easier for this target market to get familiar and consume products with a positive outcome for both parties. Recommendations such as sharing videos that show instructions on how to use the website, face to face communications such as skype, or prints that make it possible to enlarge the content of the websites would have positive consequences for airlines. With these steps they would make a step towards one of their important target groups and therefore create a beneficial outcome.

To conclude, the implementation of these steps might be reasonable in order to satisfy unexperienced (elderly) people and therefore increase the number of purchases via the own website. There are also many portals and travel agents that offer flights with different airlines for the same prices as the websites do. In this way, the company applies good customer engagement from the point of view of the customer, as it gives them freedom of choice, but it has a negative financial impact on the company, as compensations have to be paid.

Bibliography

Marketo (2015), The 5 Principles of Engagement Marketing, Retrieved from Marketo: http://uk.marketo.com/ebooks/elements-of-engagement-marketing/

Peelen, E., Beltman, R. (2013), Customer Relationship Management, 2nd edition, p.72, UK: Pearson

Photo credits: Banco do Nordeste used under cc 2.0