Business Value delivered from Social Media?

By Vipul Doshi, It suddenly seems to be the flavor of the day. Everyone is talking about how does “Social Media add value to my business”.

Social media has given customers a voice that they only dreamed of having a few years ago. Through the use of social channels, customers can communicate directly with the brands they do business with, anytime and anywhere. Social Media has always been an attractive avenue for travel brands. The prime reason is that travel is a very social experience both for purchase as well as an activity. People consult their friends for travel recommendations and seek their advice for places they should visit, airlines they should prefer and hotels they should stay. Moreover, people travel with their friends, make new friends during trips and travelling together (at least for holidays and leisure) is always considered more exciting than travelling alone. Travel brands are trying to bring this social experience online for people to get travel recommendations, share their travel experiences and help make their customers’ travel better.

I see the airline industry is all about forming communities. Many travelers are regulars, people who log countless hours in the skies for business or pleasure. No wonder, many travellers are continuously using the social web to discuss your airline. They could be tweeting from an airport with questions on flight delays, or maybe using Facebook to celebrate their great experiences with your in-flight crew. Airlines, on the other end are also using the social web to reach out to passengers to ensure that they’re having the best experience possible each and every time they take to the skies. This medium provides the opportunity to communicate with customers and prospects in novel ways. It helps airlines build engagement, drive frequent flier participation, and sell more tickets.

Also as increased security and spikes in fuel prices often turn flying from an excursion into what can seem like a necessary evil, airlines are increasingly harnessing social media to reach out and respond to customers. On the other hand, I have seen recent trends where growing number of travelers are using social media channels to voice their complaints about airlines. Passengers use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to share complaints about poor airline experiences. Airlines need to tap this opportunity to do a better job of gathering passenger feedback and closing the loop on customer interactions. Social media provides a direct and open line of communication from the airline straight to the customer with the ability to connect with them on a personal level, anywhere at any time.

I recently came across CAPA-SITA’s latest report on India Aviation which highlighted the fact that social networks are increasingly being used for communication with passengers. Airlines will see an increase in providing this capability from 23 percent to 76 percent by 2014, while airports will see a rise to 73 percent from the current 36 percent. An internal study conducted by IGT’s Social Media Center of Excellence also points out that by 2013, for every 100 calls to a contact center, there will be 96 conversations that need to be attended to using Social Media.

I think the time has come for the next generation of contact centers – the evolution from contact centers to Social Media hubs.

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