The vast majority of airlines already know that social media is a must-do for business success. But to get the best results out of your customer interaction project, you have to take social media further than just a few daily posts on Twitter and Facebook.
Social CRM (as you might expect) merges social networking with customer relationship management. Paul Greenberg, an expert on Social CRM, defines it as a process that is “...designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide a mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company response to the customer’s owning of the relationship.”
What Benefits Should An Airline Gain From Social CRM?
The intention is to transform conversation into sales conversions, while also improving customer care. Done right, Social CRM can help an airline understand what services are important, what value-adds matter, and what innovations are most likely to return ROI. Social CRM can provide you with a steady flow of valuable customer data which can then be utilized to drive service/product launches, support business forecasting, and strengthen relationships with your most-valued customers.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But don’t rush to deploy Social CRM. Begin with a strategy – you might want to launch a pilot project tied to a specific business goal with measurable results -- and then find the right technologies and people to support your mission.
You’ll need a CRM solution that enables you to manage customer/passenger relationships and data, one that is designed for the dynamics of the airline industry. Your Social CRM platform should integrate with key applications across all customer touch points. You can customize many CRM solutions, but why waste a lot of time tweaking a generic CRM back-end to suit the needs of your airline and the industry?
Determine Your Strategy
You’ll certainly make your customers happy if you use Social CRM to distribute discounts and coupons. But that’s not the best use of this technology. What you want to do is use Social CRM to differentiate your customers, understand their needs as well as the value that each customer segment brings to your business, and interact with them accordingly. By integrating these learnings into your chosen CRM solution, you’ll advance your airline’s business intelligence.
To make all of this happen, you will need to provide tangible value in exchange for your customers’ data, time, attention, and endorsements. Your primary question – the focal point of your strategy – should always be: what’s in it for them? If you don’t deliver value via Social CRM, the type of information and interactions that make your customers feel appreciated and acknowledged - you might as well stick to posting amusing videos on Facebook.
Being customer-centric doesn’t mean that you abandon all interest in gaining measurable ROI from your Social CRM project. It does mean that you find ways to produce the business results you want by engaging with your customers meaningfully and meeting their needs.
Too many brands make the mistake of talking about themselves incessantly on social media, rather than listening to what their customers are saying and then responding accordingly. If customers see that your airline is making changes in response to conversations, they will be far more inclined to share useful information, support the airline’s initiatives, and forgive its missteps.
Best Practice Policies and Procedures
Once you’ve developed a strategy that meets your airline’s business goals, and have determined what technical solutions you need to support the Social CRM project, you’ll want to develop processes that will enable you to fulfill your customers’ value expectations, and transform conversations into actionable data.
To do this, you’ll likely need to work with the data-driven teams within your airline (such as revenue management specialists, data scientists, and marketing leads), as well as IT to develop the technical workflow. You’ll also want to create processes to best respond to customer interactions, capture data, and share it in a meaningful way throughout the organization.
Managing the Conversation
Make sure that you have dedicated the right resources to Social CRM. Put a problem-solving process in place that ensures fast, appropriate, responses to customer queries and complaints. Avoid frustrating customers in search of solutions by delaying responses, delivering generic “cut and paste” replies (like the ever popular “we’re taking this very seriously”). And then do what you promised to do – don’t let a promised action fall by the wayside. Be personable, use Social CRM to put a human face to your airline and let the best aspects of your corporate culture shine.
Reward your brand ambassadors for their advocacy. Find ways to keep them engaged, even when they're not immediately planning a trip or shipping cargo. Above all, *use* the information that you gather through Social CRM to better meet customer expectations and your customer’s business objectives.