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.

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.

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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.