How airlines can do social media service betterNews / TechnologyBy Marisa Garcia | January 10, 2018Share This article was originally published on Social media customer service firm Conversocial has published its Airline Benchmark Report for 2018, which rates airlines’ performance on social media as a customer service tool.It shows that airlines in North America still outperform their European and Middle Eastern counterparts in terms of response-time on Twitter, though EMEA airlines take the lead on responsiveness. The average response time of North American carriers is 20 minutes and one second, compared to the EMEA average of 1 hour and 41 minutes. However, EMEA airlines have an average responsiveness rate of 28.07%, compared to the 22.39% of North American carriers. North American airlines also handle a 66% higher volume of @mentions.Conversocial says: “Dealing with volumes at scale is critical to the in-the-moment issue resolution, and from our analysis, a more pressing issue for North American airlines."Share this quote The industry-average for responsiveness is 25.23%, an increase over 21% in 2016.In North America, the top-performing airline on average response time was @JetBlue at four minutes and 50 seconds on average, followed by @VirginAmerica at 4 minutes 56 seconds, and @AlaskaAir at five minutes and 10 seconds.Among EMEA airlines, @Lufthansa took the top spot at nine minutes 15 seconds, @EtihadHelp ranked second at 11 minutes 21 seconds and @Ryanair ranked third at 16 minutes 23 seconds. Getting the message across The firm also reports a rise in the volume of private messaging over 2017, including Facebook Messenger and standalone platforms like WhatsApp.Facebook Messenger volume more than doubled for three of Conversocial’s airlines partners during a six month period from March-August of 2017 when compared to the previous six months. “Messenger volumes saw a +10% compounded monthly growth rate. During this same period, Conversocial also measured a 50% increase in incoming volumes of Twitter DMs from airline travelers.”Share this quote This corresponds to an increase in the estimated use of messaging globally (2 billion in 2015 v 3.6 billion for 2018) which is growing faster than the estimated numbers on social media platforms (2 billion in 2015 v 2.4 billion in 2018) and outpacing the estimated rate of growth of internet users (3.2 billion in 2015 v 4 billion in 2018).In other words, as more users get connected, more are gravitating towards messaging platforms than social media channels and enough current connected individuals are moving away from social media channels to messaging channels to mark a difference. “Just as consumers have shifted more of their attention to private messaging, they’ve also shifted their interactions with airlines. While social media customer care started in response to public complaints on Twitter and Facebook, for many brands the majority of questions and complaints have now shifted almost completely to private messaging channels. But the shift to private messaging is much more important than just reducing public complaints. "Messaging combines full live-chat functionality with persistent identity and mobile notifications—combining all of the best elements of the traditional digital care channels, purpose-built for the mobile era: Real-time (in many you can even see when the other person is typing); Asynchronous (you can go away and continue the conversation later); Persistent identity (and easy to link to a customer record); Connected to smartphone notifications."Share this quote While more companies are turning to bots to ease the handling of high-volume queries, Conversocial reports that “transactional bots are yet to make an impact” on airlines handling of customer transactions. This is because the rebooking process is more complex than other retail transactions and automating full conversations with airline customers is more complex.In fact, Conversocial suggests that the rise of automated messaging as a platform of customer interaction actually makes the quality of direct customer contact more critical. “The premise for social care remains the same—the modern traveler of today expects to be able to reach a customer care team 24/7 in their preferred channel of their choice. Effortless, efficient and in-the-moment resolutions are key to meeting the modern demands of airline travelers. Therefore, the new competitive advantage for airlines is humanity in service, at all customer touch points. This means arming front line staff, breaking down internal silos and allowing social to inform business decisions. Airlines that are attempting to capture, understand, and win the travelers of 2018 are faced first with the prospect of having to initiate a personalized experience.”Share this quote This matches the insights that KLM shared with tnooz on social media trends for 2018, suggesting that automation must be woven-into the customer conversation to help answer common questions with agents ready to step-in for more personalized service.