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The Spanish airline Iberia achieved the fastest social media response time of any European airline in 2013: 28 seconds.

Although this may seem like a vanity metric, the result was a complete end-to-end resolution to a query on Twitter.

This is indicative of Iberia’s position as one of the most social companies in the airline industry. Using a ‘human-to-human’ approach, Iberia manages a community of 1.7m followers with more than 1,000 daily interactions.

Speaking yesterday at Our Social Times’ Social Customer Service Summit 2014 was Sara Losa, Iberia’s international marketing manager.

Spain is the 5th country in the world for social network use, in fact 50% of the total population use social regularly. 12m are active on Facebook on a daily basis, 5m are active on Twitter. Here’s a social map of Europe to see where Spain stands compared to the rest of its neighbours.

Iberia itself updates more than 20 social channels a day, on 11 different networks, with 1.7m multilingual followers.

Local management is key to Iberia’s customer service strategy.

The nine key elements of local CSCX management:

Human-to-human 

Iberia applies personalisation through human-to-human interaction. There’s no automation, there’s always a real person behind the social channel.  Each response is tailored to the individual customer and their individual query.

The customer service (CS) advisor will not only take into account the query, but also the country, the language and the culture.

For instance, although a Spanish and a Mexican customer may speak the same language, culturally they will be very different.

Solutions are always specific to the customer, there is no copy and pasted stock reply.

24/7 social command centre

Iberia manages its social channels 24 hours a day, seven days a week from its own ‘social central command’. This means that advisors can reply in real-time, at any time with the same management overseeing them, providing a consistent tone of voice and philosophy.

This also helps to keep all of the experts under one roof. Meaning that more complex problems can be resolved quickly and efficiently. Iberia has an average response time of 15 minutes.

Interaction and user generated content

Iberia believes it’s important to encourage its own customers to participate in creating user generated content for the company.  

User testimonies help generate trust and also creates brand ambassadors for the airline. Iberia will soon be rolling out user created video travel guides to various destinations on its website.

Native digital teams

Iberia has a dedicated digital team of service and social experience experts, with multiple disciplines who can speak multiple languages, all working within a large social hub. 

Active relationships with social influencers

Iberia interacts and actively seeks the help of a vast array of groups that can help influence the consumer and help improve brand perception.

Iberia has fostered relationships with plane-spotters, serious aviation fans, leaders in aviation as well as other important influencers in lifestyle and travel. These people are invited to write for its blog and are offered invitations to exclusive events.

Social commerce

The permeation of digital throughout every channel has led to a greater opportunity for lead-generation.

Whether it’s through its desktop site, social channels, smartphone apps, tablet availability on flights and inflight Wi-Fi, offers can be tailored for every user no matter where they are or what device they’re using.

Customer satisfaction

Issues are not ‘closed’ until the customer’s problem has been fully resolved. Iberia tends to 25,000 – 30,000 enquiries, incident reports and complaints every month.

Even indirect complaints are aimed to be resolved.

Protection of reputation

During the air traffic control crisis in Spain and the closing of its air space, Iberia became a key source for media and news outlets, mainly due to its prominence in social media.

The protection of the brand is a key concern, especially in this public realm where Twitter storms can erupt without a moment’s notice.  

So it’s imperative that Iberia operates a positive and responsive tone of voice at all times. Especially when other airline companies are failing so badly.

Measurement and analysis

Iberia uses several tools for analysis and every single action that takes place on its social channels is recorded and analysed with regard to creating future objectives to make improvements. 

Iberia makes a point of noting passengers who are particularly active on social media, who also have made a previous complaint, so that when they’ve boarded a flight a CS advisor will, either in person or via social, ask them if everything is okay and wish them a good flight.

A consistent digital experience across all channels, social or otherwise, coupled with a strong and well strategised customer service will lead to satisfied users who are more than likely to recommend your service to other people.

For more on social customer service from the blog, check out social customer service: a best practice checklist.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 15 May, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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