On an almost daily basis someone tags me in a conversation about an abysmal experience they’re having with airline customer service on Twitter. Heck, during the United leggings “scandal” a couple of weeks ago, it’s actually United’s Twitter customer service that got them in so much trouble.
When United was asked about their dress code on Twitter, they made it sound as if they had a dress code preventing revenue passengers from wearing leggings. Arguably that’s what made this situation spiral out of control.
— United (@united) March 26, 2017
Airline customer service on Twitter used to be great
I used to use airline customer service on Twitter all the time. Several years back I loved American’s Twitter customer service. They were always on top of things and incredibly competent. If I wanted something resolved, they could do it more quickly than over the phone, not to mention they actually seemed to staff their most competent people from major departments there (customer service, reservations, etc.).
On top of that, they really got to know frequent flyers, so it was almost like you had a bond with them. Unfortunately over the years that has changed, and I don’t blame airlines for that. I think the decline in customer service over Twitter was inevitable, given how much it has grown, and given how common customer service via Twitter has become.
How airlines measure Twitter “success”
There are a couple of problems with customer service over Twitter. First of all, any sort of airline rankings or awards for Twitter customer service seem to be based around two primary metrics:
- How often airlines respond when someone Tweets at them
- How quickly those initial responses come
So the way most airlines seem to approach Twitter is that they need to respond every single time they’re mentioned, and as quickly as possible… at least the first time. That doesn’t give them an incentive to resolve anything quickly, but rather only to say “we’re looking into it,” or whatever. To me that seems counterproductive.
If someone Tweets their frustration about being delayed, I’m not sure what exactly an airline is accomplishing by responding in two minutes and saying “we’ll get you on your way as soon as possible.” Or when someone Tweets their frustration about how long a customer service line is, they’ll respond with “our colleagues will help you as soon as possible.” Is that supposed to make us feel better?
But unfortunately this is the kind of stuff that airlines focus most of their Twitter efforts on, because it’s all about responding to everyone quickly. This is exactly how the United leggings fiasco unfolded.
Someone Tweeted to ask about United’s dress code, so their “go to” response is to point to the contract of carriage, rather than taking time to analyze the situation.
Airline customer service on Twitter has almost become like an automated response bot. I imagine airlines can’t really retain much Twitter “talent” given how dumbed down the service has become. Could you imagine essentially having to be a bot and insincerely apologizing to people all day? It seems worse than working in a lost baggage department at an airline.
Yesterday JonNYC linked me to a Tweet about how some American Executive Platinum members had systemwide upgrades extended a couple of months ago, but now they’re being told that they’re no longer valid. American responded on Twitter by saying that you can track your systemwide upgrade balance online, which clearly wasn’t addressing the situation.
— American Airlines (@AmericanAir) April 7, 2017
There’s too much noise
That brings me to the point of this post — I’ve stopped bothering with airline customer service on Twitter. That’s not to say that all airlines are bad, but rather that it’s just not worth the effort anymore. I don’t necessarily even think the airlines are totally at fault here. As long as their metric of Twitter success continues to be that they respond to everyone as quickly as possible, it won’t be an especially useful tool.
There’s so much noise, and airlines are taking time to respond to everyone, even if there’s not a question, rather than focusing on the questions coming in, researching, and taking time to get a correct response.
But maybe that’s partly also our fault. We expect fast and accurate service on Twitter. We want issues handled right away, and that makes it tough to manage expectations. Do we want Twitter customer service to work the same way as picking up a phone and calling reservations, or do we want it to work like an email to customer relations, where it could take several days to get a response, but it’s more likely to be researched correctly?
Personally I don’t bother with airline customer service through Twitter anymore. That’s not to say that all airlines are bad, but rather that Twitter is a form of media that just doesn’t seem conducive to providing quality service. It has gotten too big, and there’s too much noise. Airlines are focused on addressing the noise rather than providing real customer service on it, and I can’t say I necessarily blame them. It’s inevitable.
Hell, American can’t even get their usual customer relations email right, where they have time to formulate an answer. I’ve had two negative experiences in a row with American’s customer relations, as I wrote about here and here.
What has been your experience with airline customer service on Twitter? Are there any airlines that still do a great job with Twitter?