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Which airlines have the best reputation for customer service?

Airline customer service stories – both good and bad – often create headline news. Whether a public figure “slams” a carrier for its poor service or an airline shows sympathy for the plight of an ill passenger, these anecdotes often resonate with customers’ personal experiences.

But which are the stories that get amplified? While there are many measures of customer service in the airline industry, by analysing all publicly available content, we can determine what passengers themselves are saying on social media and also which content has the largest potential influence on would-be passengers in relation to perceptions of service.

To answer this question, alva’s media measurement system has analysed over 3.8 million pieces of publicly available content from sources globally.

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Which airline carriers have had the best corporate reputation for customer service in the last six months?

  1. Etihad (5.60/10)

Awards: Etihad enjoyed positivity around its customer service when the passenger experience was cited within accolades Etihad: key drivers of positivity (weighted)including the “Airline of the Year” award (citing “superior customer service”) and award for “best Operational Reliability Performance” in the first year of A380 operations – with only 0.2% of flights on the new aircraft experiencing delays.

A380: The introduction of the A380 into the Etihad fleet drove positivity more generally around customer service. The introduction of the new A380 cabin interior and luxe business and first class experience earned praise from journalists, travel bloggers and social media users.

Speed, telephone service and amenities: Passenger feedback on Twitter focused on Etihad’s “FAST” customer service response, in particular in relation to the service received over the telephone. In-flight amenities also contributed to a positive customer experience, with seat comfort and WiFi availability mentioned and motorcycle racer Casey Stoner (366k followers) tweeting about the airline’s great service on a recent flight.

  1. KLM (5.56/10)

KLM: key drivers of customer service positivity (weighted)Facebook Messenger: KLM became the first airline to offer flight check-in and the ability to contact customer service via Facebook’s Messenger app. The development’s convenience was highlighted in mainstream media.

Twitter and telephone service: On Twitter, passengers spoke positively about KLM’s customer service, in particular through Twitter and over the phone. One user thanked the airline for “the most amazing customer service ever via Twitter”, and another wrote that it was “refreshing to be able to actually sort out an issue quickly and easily over Twitter”.

  1. Delta (5.55/10)

Delta: key drivers of customer service positivity (weighted)DeltaAssist: Delta’s dedicated customer service account, @DeltaAssist, generated positivity for the carrier before it was
merged with @Delta in April 2016. When the company made the decision to combine the two accounts, praise focused on increased “convenience” and streamlined service.

In-flight service: Delta generated strong positivity in relation to its in-flight customer service, with professional wrestler and musician Chris Jericho and businessman and speaker Bryan O’Rourke tweeting about their positive Delta experiences – with these posts re-tweeted hundreds of times, amplifying coverage.

What are the drivers of positive customer experience?

Awards and accolades drove a positive perception of customer service for airline carriers, in particular when linked with reliability, innovation and a luxurious passenger experience.

In-flight service also consistently led to a positive customer experience, and celebrity endorsement via social media amplified positive discussion of customer service.

Finally, ease of communication with service agents – in particular on social media and over the phone – drove positivity for all three top performers. Social media service integration on Facebook and Twitter drew praise from marketing and customer experience professionals and also from customers themselves on these same platforms, with a focus on speed and convenience. Helpful telephone service and in-flight amenities also continued to contribute to perceptions of good customer service.

How can global airlines improve stakeholder perceptions around customer service?

  • Promote third-party honours and testimonials from industry organisations, celebrities and influencers on social media to boost credibility.
  • Seek to streamline the service experience by integrating helplines into social media platforms customers already use.
  • Get the basics right – speedy, effective service and a friendly, comfortable in-flight experience consistently drive positive perceptions of carriers.

Footnote: The methodology – how do we calculate sentiment scores?

The alva algorithm calculates sentiment scores out of 10, where a score of 5.50 is considered neutral. The algorithm takes into account the volume, influence, prominence and relevance of real-time mentions from 80,000+ news sources, more than 3m blogs and forums, 100+ social networks. A score above 6.00is considered strong, while a score below 5.00 is considered weak.

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