Airlines have long used Twitter and other social media to provide a customer service channel to their customers. Every month Twitter users send over 100,000 questions, complaints, and comments to major US airlines.

The appeal for consumers is the near-instantaneous nature in which they get a response from companies using social.


Airports on the other hand haven’t been so quick. You’ll find airports on Twitter and other social media but very few are using it as a true customer service channel. For most this is done by staff or volunteers in the terminal or on the phone. Responses over social tend to be ad-hoc. To really meet the full breadth of customer needs are airports missing an opportunity by not embracing online customer service channels?

The appeal for consumers is the near-instantaneous nature in which they get a response from companies using social. They don’t need to write a long-winded email and hope for a reply with 14 working days. They tweet a 140 character question or concern and the company responds (the great ones within minutes). It’s the often public nature of social media that encourages companies to respond thoughtfully and promptly. When the details become sensitive, switching to a private message is simple.

Customer service automation through social media bots is also on the rise. Twitter recently upped their game by making service through direct messages more appealing (for consumers and companies) by introducing welcome messages and quick replies. London City Airport is using Facebook Messenger and Twitter to automatically update passengers on flight information. Austrian Airlines has a Facebook Messenger virtual assistant. And Heathrow has recognised the need to be where their Chinese visitors are, on WeChat.

Live chat, which is commonplace on ecommerce websites, is another path airports should consider. Anytime a customer visits your website they’ll see a live chat option where they can chat directly to a staff member. If it’s out of airport business hours or not manned, the live chat option isn’t presented to visitors to avoid people talking to a blank box. It’s simple technology that may fit in well with your existing customer service model.

Where to start if you’re thinking that customer service through social media could be an option? Take a look at Twitter’s Customer Service Playbook and decide on what your goals are. Maybe it’s answering customer questions, maybe it’s service recovery. You don’t need a huge team like the airlines to be successful, just the right expectations of what you can achieve with your current resources. Secondly, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and analyse what they are asking you for right now, online and offline. If you don’t know, there’s no better time to find out.