Airline executives claim that providing a better customer service is a leading part of their social media strategy this year, although challenges remain how to do so.
This is one of the key findings from a survey of bosses and senior management across 90 airlines around the world, as part of an annual analysis by Simpliflying.
The study found that social customer service as a major priority had jumped from 32% of respondents last year to 40% in 2016.
Customer service was found to be ahead of branding (26%), ancillary revenues (15%), loyalty programmes (12%) and crisis management (6%).
Still, after years of getting to grips with how, when and why to use social media, airlines are realising that operationally a more strategic approach is needed.
Some 29% of execs say they need to align social media in a better way with existing operations.
One in ten admit that better training is needed for staff and 5% want to restructure their teams in order to handle their social media output.
In particular, four out of five respondents say, ideally, they want a dedicated team to run social media operations within an airline, rather than a distributed team (figures within each department) or outsourced to a dedicated agency.
Currently, just 50% of airlines in the study have a dedicated social media operation in-house.
Chart with the breakdown of priorities for social media at airlines around the world:
Doing this type of activity at airline doesn't happen without resources, of course, so how are execs hoping to fund any changes to social media operations or boosting the existing strategy?
Simpliflying found in its survey that 40% of execs thought it was "likely" that budgets would go up in 2017 - leaving 60% either not likely or unable to say.
The report says:
"Having an internal dedicated team for social media must therefore be preceded by complete buy-in from the senior management.
"This will ensure that dedicated teams get regular training and updated tools to deal with the specialised roles they have to fulfill.
"Owing to greater need for technology, training and people, dedicated teams are also most likely to take up a bigger portion of the company’s marketing budget than a distributed team."
NB: Full report here.
NB: Aircraft sky image via Pixabay.