Earlier today KLM, the biggest flight operator at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam experienced problems after a software update. It caused their site, booking systems and other operations to fail and caused lots of delays and disruption at their main hub, Schiphol Airport.
I’m not flying today but noticed it because of an article on a Dutch news site. Now in general I wouldn’t really have paid much attention especially as I read the article several hours after it had been posted and the disruption had already been cleared and services resumed by then, but one line intrigued me: [translated from Dutch]
“….Travellers can contact KLM through its social media accounts Twitter or Facebook. There will be employees there that can check in customers online or book flights.”
Now a major international company taking their online reputation and social customer service serious during a major services outage isn’t new but to specifically offer operational help (like booking or check in) through a Facebook or Twitter account is not something you see often. The reason being that in order to do that on a large scale you need a totally different skill set then for simply answering a customer service question or responding to remarks or complaints. Traditionally most companies still see the role of a social media department mostly as a communications / marketing endeavor and hire their social media staff accordingly. Thereby limiting the reach of their social channels.
From experience learned during the 2010 Iceland volcano eruption that caused worldwide mayhem in the aviation industry and a major boost in social Media use, KLM instead chose to create a Social Media department with people from all sides of its operations: “… a dedicated team creates synergy by sharing their expertise from a varied background including communications, e-commerce, customer care, ticketing, marketing, operations and cabin crew” [source]. Thereby making it possible to quickly and autonomously react to possible problems and easily involve other departments (volunteers) when needed.
And that meant that when their own IT services went down today they could immediately react and go beyond the normal realm of social media customer service and offer services that would otherwise not have been available.
They described their social media strategy and the process of how that came to be in this 4 part blog series. I can certainly recommend reading it as it is a really good (and entertaining!) read for all those interested in how big corporations tackle the ever expanding social media tidal wave that is hitting them.
Paving the way for others, KLM is certainly among those facing it head-on.