4 things SMEs can learn from KLM’s social customer service

Emily  | 

More and more companies – 95% this year as opposed to 74% last year – are offering customer service through social media. According to the Dutch Social Media Monitor, the most social brand with the best service strategy is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. A big boy. What can small companies learn from this airline?

KLM started its social customer service in 2009, with only a couple of support employees who spent their days monitoring Facebook and Twitter. But the airline’s strategy changed dramatically when a lot of air traffic was shut down on April 14th, after the dramatic eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. To keep its customers informed, KLM decided to use social media to send out up-to-date flight information. A clever move: KLM’s social service was an instant hit. Since then, KLM increases its social customer service investments every year. The airline now offers customer service in 10 languages and on 7 different social media platforms. Every week, 30.000 social media cases are handled – pretty amazing.

Social customer service tip 1: Surprise your customers

One of the most successful social media campaigns in history was KLM’s ‘surprise’ campaign in 2010. A dedicated support team mapped out which Foursquare or Twitter users were waiting for a KLM flight at Schiphol Airport to surprise them right there with a personal gift. They were thrilled, and the campaign boosted the brand’s awareness tremendously.

Can you do something as huge? Probably not. But your job as a service employee is not fulfilled when your customers’ expectations are met. In order to get truly happy customers, you have to exceed their expectations. As a small company, you don’t have to go overboard with tons of expensive gifts. Start surprising your customers by adding a personal touch to every order, or by beautifully wrapping their packages. And did a customer, for whatever reason, fail to receive his products? Then just resend them, or offer the customer the option to get a refund.

Social customer service tip 2: Be as attainable as possible

In 2011, KLM decided to offer social customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, since they received many questions between midnight and 8 o’clock in the morning.

In essence, it is all about being available when needed. 24/7 service is cool, but not profitable when customers don’t need it. Find out the ‘rush hours’ of your customer service and make sure your support team isn’t understaffed at those times. Customers love it when they know you’re there to help out.

Social customer service tip 3: Speed is almost everything

Of all the airline companies, KLM seems to have the fastest helpdesk on Facebook. The company only needs 45 minutes to respond on a customer inquiry. They reach a similar reaction time on Twitter.

It’s all about speed. Your efforts are all in vain if your help doesn’t arrive in time. And there’s little room for delay: 42% of unhappy customers active on social media say to expect a reaction within 60 minutes. Being available at the ‘rush hours’ helps you respond swiftly on most of your customer queries.

CRM systems like Casengo enable SMEs to deliver fast service by offering live chat. And if nobody is around to answer a chat request (which is not unlikely in many smaller companies), your customer query will immediately be turned into an email. This mail can be converted back to a chat conversation if both you and your customer are back online. Read about other benefits of live chat software.

The Facebook integration makes things even easier. With this, every comment on your Facebook Page is turned into a customer case that automatically arrives in your inbox. You don’t even have to leave the application to respond on Facebook comments.

Social customer service tip 4: Be proactive

KLM works night and day to respond to every little tweet or comment that contains its branded keywords. Whether it’s is a question, an observation, a compliment or a full-blown discussion, KLM will always peak its head around the corner and say hi. They also use social networks to spread out the latest travel information. And in case of a canceled flight, they will proactively reach out to customers with alternatives and solutions. In short: when it comes to customer service, KLM really takes the initiative.

Maintaining a proactive attitude is essential for social customer service. Social media offer you tons of opportunities to monitor your brand mentions while enabling you to solve problems early. Try to structurally search on relevant keywords and get yourself involved into discussions. Knowing the problems your potential customers are dealing with is half the work. And while you’re at it: publically tweet or post the answers on frequently asked questions. This will relieve your support team in the long term.

It’s no wonder that more and more companies are embracing social media to handle customer queries. Twitter and Facebook are fantastic support platforms. That said, social media isn’t automatically a one-way ticket to outstanding service. Your support team constantly has to push itself to be quick, proactive and surprising. In the end, that’s the only way to more happy customers!