We’ve had many requests to share the content from our June 24 Social Spotlight webinar with American Airlines (@AmericanAir), so here it is.
Katy Phillips, (@katyphillips) Senior Analyst, Social Communications for American Airlines did a great job of explaining how American uses social for several use cases with a focus on enhancing the customer experience (#CX #engagement).
Stats on Social at AA
Katy says AA is currently on nine social networks with its largest presence being a 24/7 customer service operation on Twitter and Facebook.
AA has a 21-member social team, with 16 of them devoted to Social Customer Experience, four to Social Customer Engagement and one to Social Analytics to handle social metrics and reporting.
In 2013, AA had 1.4 million mentions and began monitoring and responding on social on a 24/7 basis to show its commitment to social customer service. For Q1 2014, the company saw about one million mentions for AA and US Airways, which translates into 2.8 billion impressions. @AmericanAir has 865,000 followers and @USAirways has 458K followers.
Answering the Key Questions
Katy says the key questions the social team consistently uses @NetBase to answer are:
- What is the volume of the conversation?
- Where is the conversation happening?
- Who is driving the conversation?
- What are the main themes of the conversation?
- What is the tone or sentiment of the conversation?
“NetBase helps us us find those answers and gather the relevant data we need to understand the online conversation and develop an effective social strategy,” says Katy.
Changing the Tone of Voice
Once it committed to having a world-class customer service function on social media, American devoted time and resources to educate, scale and train its team. One key exercise was analyzing the word choices AA representatives were using when they responded to customers online. AA’s social team used word clouds from NetBase to see what their most-used words were. As you can see, “apologies” was the number-one word.
“We wanted to shift our word choices to action words,” Katy says. “We did that, and as you can see from the second word cloud, ‘apologies’ has shrunk and we’re using more action-oriented terms like ‘please follow’ and ‘take a look.’”
Katy says AA also uses NetBase to review each previous month’s posts and see what performs well, so the company can evolve its engagement strategy. “We’ve found that casual and authentic posts and fan-generated content get the most ‘likes’ and ‘shares,’” she says. “Those posts perform way better than ‘corporate-speak’ content.”
Appreciating the Biggest Fans & Influencers
Katy says NetBase also gives AA the ability to see its top influencers by follower accounts and number of engagements. “So we had an idea of who was interacting regularly and positively with us,” she says. “We combined this insight with the personality of our social team and created “Valenvines”— online Valentine messages we posted on Twitter. It was a chance for us to show our appreciation for some of our biggest fans. We got a great reaction from fans like Ian Ziering (check out the Twitter dialog below!).”
Tips: Developing A Successful Customer Engagement Strategy
American Airlines has many happy customers they touch with their social engagement strategy.
- Take the time to put a structure in place
- Identify the best tools—Social data is your business case for growing your social media team, so do your homework and find the best tools
- Determine meaningful metrics for the audiences you’re serving and supporting
- Categorize and track your messaging, which allows for comparative analysis and optimization
- Identify and reward your advocates—They’re telling your story and they’re the ones their friends trust. Try to make it a positive story.
- Establish regular reporting
- Talk in the language of the group you’re targeting
- Customer Care—For example, what kind of mentions are we getting? Are they related to baggage or delays at the airport? Measure response times for responding to posts, and analyze the best way to escalate issues.
- Marketing—In the case of AA, Katy’s group provided metrics on reach, impressions, sentiment, acquisitions, promotion effectiveness, and revenue from fare sales
- Executives—Take a bigger picture view here and talk about trends, customer feedback, number of brand mentions, and degree of customer involvement
- Identify actionable data—Once you do, you can use it to refine engagement policies and develop content ideas
- Optimize business strategies
Answering Attendees’ Questions
At the end of the webinar, Katy answered these questions from webinar attendees.
How can we get more of our customers following us?
Be responsive. We assisted people on Twitter. We integrated with other business units. In every email, we have links to our Twitter and Facebook pages. Also on boarding passes and AAdvantage emails—we expose our channels on as many customer communications as possible. Giving things away also helps. You can also use partners to show off joint promotions. Feature different partners and get them to do the talking.
How did you create your processes?
We didn’t have a playbook or formal process. We put customer service reps through a several-week training program. For reporting, our analytics person would show data to stakeholders and find out what they needed.
Which social media platform have you found most effective in converting new customers?
Our largest volume is on Twitter, with Facebook second. That was easy to determine with NetBase because it breaks down where each conversation is happening. We have not put a process in place yet for converting interactions with customers into transactions.
Do you respond to mentions regardless of whether you were specifically tagged or mentioned? Do customers find that creepy?
We respond to mentions on our direct handle. Often people will mention AA in a post, and their friends will recommend they tweet directly to @AA because we’re responsive. We do search for keywords and respond. It’s been our experience that people don’t find that creepy: They’re pleased that we find them and help resolve an issue. People often go to social media just to talk, not expecting a response, so when they get one they’re thankful.
Is your tool accurate in picking up the tone of posts?
NetBase has a Sentiment Tracker that uses Natural Language Processing to evaluate the sentiment of posts. We’ve found it’s very accurate—it’s been really dead-on for us. We can filter by Sentiment and categorize tweets as positive or negative. We’re very comfortable with the way NetBase categorizes mentions. We use it all the way up to the executive level because of the comfort and trust we have in the tool.
Do you consider social more a marketing or a customer service tool?
It’s both, and we try to balance that. You can’t market to your customer if you’re not also listening to them. Otherwise, you’re just shouting at them. You need to develop a relationship with them, which we try to do by not simply resolving an issue for the moment, but trying to help them in the future with their travel on American Airlines.