With thousands of customers taking their complaints and questions to social media every day, it is becoming more important for brands with multiple customer touch points to have a strong social presence and engage with their audience.
Social analytics firm Crimson Hexagon has produced a report revealing how social media users feel about some of the biggest European airlines.
Using its ForSight platform, the firm examined the Twitter conversations of, and concerning, British Airways (BA), Ryanair, KLM, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic, from January 2014 to March this year.
Key findings included that BA dominates the social media conversation; that KLM and Virgin Atlantic were tied for the highest percentage of positive sentiment – despite the fact Virgin Atlantic was found to have the lowest percentage of mentions responded to – and that the airline with the highest negative percentage of overall conversation was Ryanair.
BA dominated the social media conversation on Twitter with more than 248,000 posts between January 1 2014 and March 23 2015.
Sentiment analysis comparison
KLM and Virgin Atlantic tied for the highest percentage of positive sentiment, with 27% of the overall conversation.
The two airlines have achieved the ratings for different reasons however.
Satisfaction with customer service accounts for 14% of KLM’s positive sentiment, while 13% results from the overall ‘liking’ of the airline. In the case of Virgin Atlantic, 5% of the overall conversation comes from satisfaction with customer service and the rest from general positive brand mentions.
Measuring social presence and engagement
Each airline’s social presence and engagement was measured based on the brand’s own ‘post volume’ from February 2014 to February 2015.
KLM had the largest post volume, with nearly 145,000 posts, and also had the highest percentage of positive conversation related to customer service.
Crimson Hexagon analysed the number of mentions of the KLM brand on Twitter and the number of posts tweeted by KLM and found that around 45% of all mentions of the airline are responded to, which is a higher percentage than the other airlines analysed.
Measuring airline response rates
The report found that KLM has been the most consistent airline in terms of the amount of tweets it has responded to since last year.
Since January 2014 it has increased its amount of posts by 43%, while the other airlines analysed have increased their amount of posts by up to 1,473%. Crimson Hexagon believes this shows the brands now recognise the opportunity that lies in the use of social media and have begun to engage more with customers.
Ryanair’s sentiment analysis
Crimson Hexagon found that the airline with the highest negative percentage of overall conversation was Ryanair, with 46%. Dissatisfaction with the airline’s customer service accounted for 29%, while posts from users complaining about add-on fees accounted for 7%.
While the report found that positive sentiment towards the airline rose from 10% to 19% between April 2012 and March 2015, it also found negative sentiment towards its customer service rose from 25% to 30% during the same timeframe.
A similar pattern was detected when it came to brand engagement. Looking at the number of mentions Ryanair received and its post volume from February 2014 to February 2015, 20% of all customer mentions of the airline were replied to by the customer service staff.
Analysing Virgin Atlantic’s positive sentiment
Although Virgin Atlantic was one of the two airline brands with the highest positive sentiment, it was the airline with the lowest percentage of mentions responded to. Around 15% of all mentions of the airline were replied to.
Crimson Hexagon deduced that most of the positive sentiment is derived from general liking of the brand – its friendly service, innovation and brand message. After exploring the airline’s positive conversation, the firm found that customers truly enjoy all aspects of the in-flight experience.
Crimson Hexagon’s conclusion
This industry report shows that the importance of social media is growing within this industry.
While poor communication methods are not the only reason for negative sentiment within the airline industry, we believe that improved communications will help resolve issues on social media and in turn, result in a higher percentage of positive posts mentioning the airlines.
We also discovered that having a strong and unique brand, like Virgin Atlantic does, is a key factor in building and maintaining an overall positive sentiment with its customers. However engaging on social media with customers in a timely and personalised way is also extremely important for any airline that wants to satisfy and retain its customers.
We are confident that airlines could benefit from analysing historical data. In our analysis, we found that most airlines have a consistent reply rate to posts throughout the year. Even over the months where mentions increase dramatically because people are taking vacations, airlines do not increase their reply rate accordingly.
This means that most airlines are not keeping track of historical social media data and are not able to plan ahead for the times when they need more people to join their social media teams.
If an airline used social data to predict when the volume of mentions increases, it could hire temporary staff to help manage its social media accounts during those busy periods, resulting in a higher response rate, more satisfied customers, and an improved brand perception.
Social media offers brands a new platform for providing quality service to their customers. Due to its public nature, it is crucial for brands to have a well thought out customer service programme in order to keep customers satisfied and to avoid any PR crises.
Because of its newness, there is still plenty to learn and explore, but it is absolutely necessary to utilise this medium to your brand’s fullest capabilities.
With the proper set of social monitoring and analysis tools in your hands, you can gain insight into both your brand and customers, which allows you to strengthen your company’s customer service programme.
Luke Moore, EMEA sales director at Crimson Hexagon, added: “Social media is a great tool for strengthening and maintaining customer relationships, and more specifically, for repairing a damaged consumer’s loyalty.
“Meaningful engagement with customers on social media by listening and responding to their posts is vital for airlines that want to improve customer satisfaction and retention.”