130 dedicated social customer care employees, social payment for customers, flight attendants supplied taking social enquiries offline, an updating Twitter header displaying average response time.

These are some of the elements of KLM's social customer care that make it world beating.

Let's have a closer look, courtesy of Robertjan Groenveld, social media hub manager at KLM, speaking at Socialbakers' Engage London 2014.

It all started with the ash cloud 

KLM is pretty big. It operates in 65 countries and takes 26m passengers each year. Producing content is pretty easy; people like planes, they're amazing.

But service is a bit different. There'll always be the difficulties of luggage, food, and some latent level of customer dissatisfaction. That's the nature of air travel and the logistics involved. 

The 2010 ash cloud was a turning point for KLM. This was the first time they received questions coming through Twitter, and decided this was a comms channel that should be expanded.

Fast forward to April 2014 and KLM receives around 35,000 questions every week on social media. 75% of these are on Facebook, with the other 25% predominatly on Twitter. That's a 250% increase YoY.

iceland volcano

Social customer care is 130 people

KLM has 130 employees fully focused on social customer care. These staff don't answer email or a phone, they are solely social. 

At the moment, KLM endeavours to respond to a social enquiry within 60 minutes, though 23 minutes is the average response time. This is a 24/7 service and 10 languages are catered for.

Staff receive five weeks of training before qualifying for social customer care and it's seen as a more nuanced job than call centre work. Tone of voice is an important part of this training, as is commercial awareness.

Customer expectations of social increased quickly

Messages on Facebook sometimes shout 'Hey, I asked you a question half an hour ago! Where's my answer?'. This is quite a shift in just three years.

In a committment to transparency and to keep customer expectations at a reasonable level, KLM updates its estimated response time every hour.

The KLM Twitter header image updates every five minutes (automated via the CMS) to show the average response time in the last hour. The team is working on a way to replicate this for its Facebook profile, but at the moment header image changes on Facebook will send notifications to fans, which isn't ideal every five minutes.

twitter klm

Social login and social payment

Social login is available on the KLM website. This helps the team because a social enquiry can instantly be tied to a booking if that person booked when logged-in via Facebook or Twitter. This eliminates one step in resolving an enquiry, as the team don't have to first ask of a customer their reference number.

Social payment is also enabled with KLM through Twitter and Facebook. €100,000 was taken in just the first two weeks after launch in February 2014.

This system can be used to pay for tickets, upgrades etc. The customer care team finds it effective as they don't have to take time calling customers to confirm card payments. With social payment, KLM sends a hyperlink to a secure payment environment through Twitter or Facebook to the customer.

Online-cabin integration 

Flight attendants have an iPad on board showing any social enquiries from passengers on their flight. The customer care can ask the attendants to take the enquiries offline, solve any problems and report back.

An example given was a customer complaining about being given a cold meal on a flight. On the return flight, the attendant can make sure this passenger is one of the first to receive their meal and gets an apology for earlier problems.

One-stop shop

Above all, the main goal of the social customer care team at KLM is to ensure all questions can be answered and all issues resolved through social media alone, if the customer chooses to use this channel.

Ben Davis

Published 1 May, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (9)

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Sophie Carter

I don't see how overstaffing the social media team and then still only getting back to customers after more than an hour means "nailing it" at social customer service.

Compare this with Delta Air Lines, who only have apx 25 people on twitter, who are responding to a very similar volume of messages, and do so within 5 minutes on average. That's what one should call "nailing it".

over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Does Delta operate a social media one-stop shop?

My understanding is that it takes longer than five minutes to respond (and a team of 130) because the KLM social team actively deals with queries rather than providing a phone number. The 'under one hour' target for a response, I believe, often extends to the resolution of a customer query.

Five minutes is not a feasible target for query resolution.

With 35,000 questions a week on social, do you think 130 employees represents overstaffing? That's 269 answers per employee each week. Or 54 answers a day. Include staff holiday and quieter times when staffing is still required (24/7 service) and it's probably 100 answers per employee each day. And that's if the 130 employees are all customer facing.

The social team also broadcasts content and has commercial goals.

I'm not after KLM air miles. I'm ready to accept other airlines are just as good, but KLM is well known as a poster child for social customer care.

over 4 years ago

Guy Stephens

Guy Stephens, Social Customer Care Consultant at IBM Interactive Experience/GBS/Mobile

It's easy to get caught up on the numbers, as this is where customer service for so long has had an obsessive focus - operational efficiency. We equate a good or satisfactory experience in wholly operational terms ie. a response time of 5 mins equates to a better experience than 23 minutes or 60 minutes. Whether there's 25 people or 130 people delivering that efficiency is a moot point. As a customer I'm not necessarily fussed if something takes 5 mins or 23 mins as long as my issue is acknowledged and ultimately resolved, and I am kept updated along the way. Social is allowing organisations and customers to move beyond this operational fixation (in theory anyway), and return an element of intimacy, humanity and empathy to that 'conversation'. The fear is that operational efficiency once again stifles the creativity (and serendipity) that such companies as KLM, Delta and a whole host of others are trying to explore and understand in what is perhaps a new or different emerging service ecosystem.

over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Nicely put! Thanks for commenting.

over 4 years ago


Julian Thorpe

KLM is socially engaged which is a great starting point. There's maybe some efficiency gains to be had through the use of a social media management solution on the back of Twitter/Facebook. This might allow the 130 'social agents' to spend less time sifting/prioritising and more time responding/answering. @Guy makes some great points but having these tied to metrics/KPI's will create a win/win for the continuation and justification of social customer care/response and, satisfy the need to achieve internal metrics and measurement.

over 4 years ago

Steve Richards

Steve Richards, MD at Yomego

When you're giving your passenger info, KLM also has a field for your Twitter handle so as they can tweet you about any flight delays or changes.

over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff



over 4 years ago



Nice Post how the KLM works as like twitter

over 4 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.

The really interesting thing here is that most people working in the same area will read this and think wow as KLM are instantly moving closer to actually providing the customer with what they want.

The difficulty is how you get there. Demonstrating the value of satisfying these questions in a way that works for the customer and hence provides a positive opinion of the brand is difficult to equate back to direct sales and as a result, it takes an element of trust from the senior exec to buy into this. It's something we're trying to do more and more of by the day but selling it in is harder than ever.

about 4 years ago

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