If you were asked to think about exceptional experiences that you have had recently as a customer, those involving the airline industry are not likely to be very high on your list. Even if you were not personally bumped from a flight or left without your luggage for days after reaching your vacation destination, you could not avoid bearing witness to United Airlines’ series of public relations blunders in 2017.

For United Airlines and all its competitors, social media in the digital age has the power to influence customer loyalty and which brand customers choose to use next. Platforms like Twitter are increasingly becoming a primary and rapid way for companies to get a read on their performance during major incidents/events and the emotional response of their valued customers tied to such incidents. When paired with text and sentiment analytics technology, social media networks can provide rich information about customer experiences that are not available elsewhere. You can certainly survey customers, but getting true unsolicited customer feedback in real-time is difficult to gauge without tapping into such a channel.

Report on Delivering a Positive Air Travel Experience

In our report, What Social Media Feedback Reveals About Customer Journeys for Airlines, we present the findings from our analysis of more than 55,000 tweets, focusing on 8 major airline brands, to uncover what contributes to positive, loyalty-building experiences versus disastrous, brand image-destroying experiences.

Our exploration covers three overarching touchpoints in the airline travel experience:

  1. Customers’ experiences as they go through the initial planning and booking phase;
  2. Their experiences in the airport and on board the plane, and;
  3. All interactions they have with customer service personnel.

While some airlines, such as JetBlue and WestJet, often set themselves apart from the competition positively in the three touchpoints that were examined, others were consistently mentioned in tweets that carried negative sentiment, revealing poorer customer experiences across varied interactions with those brands.

As we know, repeated customer experiences lead to an overall perception of the brand, and that overall brand experience will alter in accordance with every subsequent experience, making each and every interaction crucial for building and maintaining ongoing customer relationships. Tweets directed at airline brands overall told a consistent story, that when it comes to building customer loyalty, three values must be reinforced:

a. Control – customers want to feel that they can get what they want, whether that be purchasing tickets or getting accurate information about a flight delay;

b. Confidence – being able to trust that a brand will deliver on its promises is vital to building a positive brand image in a customer’s mind;

c. Respect – times have changed and in this new era where humanity supersedes policy, customers want to be treated with dignity and care.

In an industry where there are many contributing circumstances that cannot be controlled by technology, the human aspect can be the differentiator when it comes to delivering positive customer experiences.

To learn more about our findings, download the full report, What Social Media Feedback Reveals About Customer Journeys for Airlines.