How a Volcano Led to Customer Service Innovation

Posted by James MacMillan,
VP Business Development, HGS Canada

I recently met a woman whose job with a non-profit organization requires her to travel the globe, often to some very remote areas. When we started to discuss which airlines she flies, she firmly stated, “I only fly KLM.” I asked her why, expecting to hear about reliable, on-time flights, helpful flight attendants, more leg room, great food; all the usual things we think of when evaluating airline service.  I was intrigued when she replied, “It’s because I book all of my travel through Facebook or Twitter.”

Image removed.

She then described an experience of trying book a rather complicated trip for her family to fly from Nigeria to Canada. She could have booked the trip online but she and her family had a limited budget and some different stop over requirements made it difficult and costly to simply pick one way trips from a menu of flights.  After spending an hour on the phone with her usual airline, which is difficult and expensive in Nigeria, she visited the KLM website. She clicked “Contact Us” and was presented with the option of using Facebook or Twitter, which were both available 24/7. The website displayed the average wait times for both channels. After choosing Facebook, she began a dialog with a reservation agent who presented different options and prices. The agent was able to put together a package for her that fit her timing, travel constraints, and her budget without her ever having to pick up a phone. She now only flies KLM, even if it’s a bit more expensive than a competing airline.

How KLM Turned a Problem Into a Customer Service Opportunity

When the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, the resulting ash cloud created the biggest disruption to European air traffic since World War II. Stranded travelers flocked to social media platforms looking for answers and support. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines fully embraced the challenge. Using Twitter and Facebook, the company responded in real-time, re-directing customers to other travel options.

Today, KLM continues to make social media the center of its customer service efforts, introducing the first social media-driven flight schedule and achieving their goal of a one-hour response time and a one-day resolution time. An innovative approach to seat selection is powered through KLM’s “Meet and Seat.” This service allows passengers to link their Facebook or LinkedIn profile to their seat assignment. Passengers can then pick a seat according to their interests and those of other people on the plane.

When customers tweet or direct a Facebook post to KLM, it’s connected to the company’s CRM, ticketing database, and customer complaints database. Such seamless systems integration is necessary to achieve quick response times.

Differentiated Customer Service Is a Business Imperative

The common buzzword for this king of customer service is “omnichannel.” It sounds a bit futuristic although in today’s world of digital access and social media, simply being able to provide your customers with the support they need, 24/7, in the channel that is best for them, is not a “nice to have” nor is it futuristic. It’s a business imperative if your business is going to grow or even survive.  The technology to enable this is available now, it’s cost effective, and can easily fit within a business case for any sized company.

And as KLM discovered, developing new ways to provide innovative, speedy and proactive customer care is a necessary investment in driving additional revenue and brand loyalty.

Campaign slider