Ed Bristow's recent articles
Delivering high-quality customer service on Twitter means being there 24-7
Analysis of 35 top airline brands on Twitter reveals that only accounts operating unlimited opening hours tend to provide effective customer service. Airlines that limit their opening hours on Twitter, even if they stay open seven days a week, tend to be unable to respond to more than 20% of all tweets in under an hour and keep 9% of customers waiting more than 6 hours.
Last week, WaveMetrix looked at 35 airline Twitter handles to investigate customer service activity by hour. While it is no surprise that brands with limited opening hours will be slower to respond to consumers, analysis revealed that staying open just two hours later can markedly improve customer service response times. Handles open until 7 or 8pm answered 24% more customers in under an hour than those open until 5pm. To take this analysis further, WaveMetrix looked on a more granular level at how well individual airlines were using Twitter as a customer service tool.
American Airlines deal best with volume, replying to a thousand more tweets than the nearest competitor over the period covered, while making sure nobody is kept waiting more than six hours. Delta’s dedicated @DeltaAssist account is fastest, replying to 70% of all tweets received in under an hour. All the best performing accounts are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Other accounts, operating limited hours, struggled to be responsive. EasyJet perform best with limited hours, but even they are only able to respond to 17% of customers in under an hour and keep 3% waiting for more than six (while many 24-7 handles are able to make 100% of their replies in under six hours).
Some airlines choose not to use Twitter for customer service and instead direct consumers to a dedicated website. This approach can channel customer queries off Twitter, but only if it is strictly adhered to. Replying to even a small selection of the tweets you receive can encourage more consumers to tweet expecting a response. British Airways’ account directs consumers to visit their official website “for specific queries”, though they still respond to a selection of urgent tweets (11% of all received). Responding to a small section of customers like this can be seen to drive a higher volume of Twitter queries than larger airlines who respond to none, as it encourages customers who see the replies to expect a response, driving up rates.
Airlines on Twitter: data table of tweet volume, response rate, response speeds
- A half-hearted approach to Twitter customer service can be worse than none at all: as mentioned, @British_Airways reply to 11% of the tweets they receive, which encourages customers to expect a response and may lead in part to a higher volume of traffic. Delta’s brand account and @SouthwestAir do not respond to customers at all on Twitter and receive a lower volume of tweets because of this, even though they are both larger airlines than British Airways in terms of passengers carried.
@DeltaAssist and @AmericanAir deliver consistently rapid service, @VirginAtlantic struggle to keep up, @easyjet work well within limitations:
Percentage of all tweets that received a reply in under an hour
- Delta Airlines’ dedicated customer service account is the most effective at replying to customers promptly: American Airlines, Philippine Airlines (flyPAL) and KLM all also deliver outstanding customer service on Twitter. Each of them reply to more than half of all the tweets they receive in under an hour and keep barely anyone waiting more than six hours for a response. They are able to achieve this rate as they are open all day, every day.
- Airlines with limited opening hours struggle to reply to more than 15% of the tweets they receive in under an hour: @easyJet fares best, managing 17%, but this suggests that the only way to use Twitter as a customer service tool effectively is to avoid limiting your opening hours at all.
Percentage of all tweets that had to wait more than six hours for a reply
- @easyjet deliver the most efficient limited-hours customer service: they keep 3% of customers waiting more than six hours and reply to 17% in under an hour. They are open seven days a week, which stops them accruing too much of a backlog over the weekend to deal with during the week. However the overall picture is that limited opening hours mean airlines are unable to keep up with the volume of tweets. Air France, Virgin Atlantic and Monarch all keep more than 10% of all customers waiting more than six hours for a reply.
Overall response rates: unlimited vs. limited opening hours on Twitter
- 24-7 accounts keep few to no people waiting more than six hours: on average, accounts with unlimited hours keep only 1% of customers waiting more than six hours. The only airline with unlimited opening hours to keep more than 3% waiting 6 hours+ is KLM, but this is likely due to the fact that their Twitter account replies to customers in nine different languages. Unlimited accounts answer 26% moreof the tweets they receive in under an hour, on average, than limited accounts.
NB: accounts making less than 50 replies to consumers over the week have been excluded from graphs for clarity
Graphs show data from August 20 – 27, 2013 for 35 airline Twitter handles: @AerLingus, @AirAsia, @airfrance, @AmericanAir, @British_Airways, @BritishAirways, @cathaypacific, @Delta, @DeltaAssist, @easyJet, @EtihadAirways, @Finnair, @FinnairHelps, @FlyAirNZ, @flyPAL, @HawaiianAir, @JetBlue, @KLM, @KoreanAir_KE, @lufthansa, @Lufthansa_USA, @Monarch, @omanair, @QantasAirways, @qatarairways, @Qfcustomercare, @SingaporeAir, @SouthwestAir, @TAMairlines, @ThaiAirways, @TurkishAirlines, @united, @USAirways, @VirginAtlantic, @VirginAustralia