The world is going social and so should your contact center. Many brands fear social media, because of the negative comments that can break their reputation, but ignoring them does not make them go away. Everyday airlines are now faced with tons of comments, questions, and complaints on social media channels (Simpliflying, 2016). Whether or not their contact centers are geared for it, social media is here to stay and it is not a trend that they can easily shy away from. Passengers do not pick up the phone to be put on hold or send an email like they used to, but they will go to Facebook or Twitter instead and aspect an answer fast (ICMI, 2011). Going social gives the opportunity for airlines to turn their traditional contact centers into an improved engagement center. Qatar Airways is acknowledged for its high quality service in the air and on the ground, whilst being one of the leading airlines when it comes to operating a social contact center.
While many airlines are utilizing social media platforms for marketing purposes, they should focus on the actual “social” aspect, a two-way communication. Providing visible good quality service is positive promotion in itself. Operating social contact centers does not have to be difficult and in fact it would be the same way you manage a traditional contact center, which is a continuous cycle of listening, handling and measuring. You listen to what all your passengers have to say online from tweets to posts. You handle them through social conversations. You measure all possible data such as volumes, trending topics, brand perception, but also what the passengers preferred channels are. By prioritizing the social platforms, not only are passengers being met where they most feel comfortable, but it also allows for good quality service because of having narrowed down to the most important channels (ICMI,2011). Qatar Airways for example is very active on Facebook with over 11 million page likes, but also engages actively on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
The key to communicating with the passengers is to be proactive and actually engage by joining conversation that create a dialogue, which is easier to execute through social platforms than a traditional contact center. Online mentions can be monitored and immediately enables airlines to engage with customers. Just a simple respond or retweet shows appreciation and makes contact more personal.
(source: Twitter, 2016)
It is of importance to offer the same quality of service to anyone throughout all the active channels, by being upfront and consistent, so that it creates recognizable service standards (ICMI, 2011) (Griffith, 2015). Where other airlines try to use humor, Qatar Airways shows that to be successful on social media it is not needed to be creative in that sense, as long as you deliver on consistency. On their Facebook posts they usually receive tons of likes and shares, as well as bunch of comments, which they attempt to respond to all in the same manner.
(source: Facebook, 2016)
The quality of the service can be measured through two indicators: the response rate and the quality (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). The opportunity with social media is the ability to have near real time responses, which is a way of showing the passengers acknowledgement. Obviously, when having to deal with time zones and an abundance of comments like Qatar Airways, this is not always achievable. That can be made up with the quality of the service itself. The level of quality can be measured through critical points such as “Are the passengers needs being interpreted correctly?”; “Are passengers not being frustrated or angry?” (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).
It is often thought that staff members need to be social media gurus, but this is not the case. What is important that staff are knowledgeable about the airline, that is what provides good service. Social media has allowed the passengers to voice themselves better and are eager to engage. They are simply demanding the same of airlines by incorporating social contact centers.
ICMI. (2011, June 14). Facebook-to-Case-to-Close: “Going Social” in your Customer Service Strategy [Video file]. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlWx3W34wLQ
Griffith, G. (2015, September 18). Making social media a friend – not enemy. Retrieved October 8, 2016, from Raconteur: http://raconteur.net/business/making-social-media-a-friend-not-enemy
Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. United Kingdom: Pearon Education Limited.
Simpliflying (2016). Airline Social Media Outlook 2017. (n.p.)