Dreamforce 2013: KLM using social to boost sales by 700%

KLM is using is not only using its internal social media unit as a one-stop shop for servicing customer complaints, but the airline is also boosting sales by 700 percent during online campaigns.

The Dutch airline was speaking at Dreamforce this week in San Francisco and is using both Salesforce's Radian6 platform to monitor social networks and Chatter to provide feedback to departments on complaints made via Twitter and Facebook.

Robertjan Groenveld, manager of KLM's social media hub, explained to attendees that the airline started using social media proactively after the volcanic ash cloud in Iceland grounded passengers for a number of days in 2010.

The success of using social media during this event has led to the company creating a 24/7 customer service department that uses social media as a end-to-end source for solving queries and complaints.

“We load 30,000 messages onto Salesforce on a weekly basis from social media, we route those by language and make sure our service teams worldwide only see the queries that are relevant to them. We do it 24/7 and we say that we will respond within the hour, which is difficult sometimes, but we have created a lot of flexibility in our social media team,” said Groenveld.

“We use chatter to interact with all kinds of departments within KLM because we say in social we are a one stop shop. We need a lot of research and contacts within our own company to answer all those questions - our social media agents know a lot they cannot know everything.”

Customers are becoming more vocal on social

However, Groenveld also said that there is a “catch” to having such a sophisticated social media response team – the customers begin to demand more. But he believes this is manageable and hopes to keep the team's responses personal, rather than using pre-existing templates.

KLM's social media hub now has over 100 agents monitoring and responding on social networks, and it caters for 10 different languages. This is also scaled up during periods where the airline is likely to see peaks in activity, such as during the winter months.

“When we started on social media people were surprised when we replied to their questions, but now we see people demanding a quicker response. The expectation of customers on social media is much higher than it was three years ago,” said Groenveld.

“The thing that we want on social is to stay personal. It's quite easy on Salesforce to create templates and send these as answers, but we don't want that. We want to be a one stop shop, we are not going to make you call a number or email a different department – if you submit a problem via social media we will help you fix that problem.”

KLM is also finding that its interactions with customers on social networks are growing by 250 percent year over year and that official customer complaint cases are largely being created on Facebook, despite more interaction happening on Twitter.

“The volumes on Twitter are much higher than on Facebook, but the cases that we created on Salesforce, 75 percent of those cases originated from Facebook. We create a case for a real problem or a real complaint,” said Groenveld.

“Why 75 percent of those cases on Facebook? Probably because you can use more text on Facebook than in a Tweet, where you are limited to 140 characters. When you have a serious problem or complaint you probably need more text.”

Commercial opportunities

KLM's manager of social media technology, Nick Botter, was also speaking at the event and explained how the airline is now using social networks to drive revenues in the company. Apart from doing marketing campaigns, where in the past it has done things like surprise passengers using social networks with gifts at the airport before they board, KLM is now also creating commercial opportunities.

“When you are doing this right we really believe that you can go out there and also create commercial propositions,” said Botter.

For example, KLM recently ran a promotion whereby if a customer shared a destination that KLM offers on Facebook and got their friends to sign up on the social network to go on a trip to that destination, the price of the journey decreased.

“We also involve customers in the sales process – so we let customers pick a destination and share it on Facebook. The more people that join this offer the lower the price will be. The extra value for us is that it will go viral,” said Botter.

“It's way better than our traditional marketing channels – in fact when we do this our sales are up 700% compared to a normal day. We create incremental revenue from this.”

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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