We live in a world where technology is at the forefront of our lives. So much so, in fact, that many people start their day with a scroll through newsfeeds and messages on their smartphone.
Social media in particular is now firmly embedded in society. There are 42 million active social media users in the UK alone – that’s 64% of the country’s population communicating via social media platforms.
On a global level, earlier this year, Facebook announced there are now two billion people logging in on a monthly basis. This kind of usage is something that cannot be ignored, social media isn’t a fad, it is absolutely here to stay.
At London City Airport (LCY) we recognise this and understand that our passengers expect to be able to communicate with us in this way.
The fast and ever changing nature of social media has meant that customers want rapid response, there’s no time for emails, phone calls, certainly not letters, they want to have timely and relevant conversations – and social media is the best way to get it.
This is even more pertinent when it comes to air travel, which presents situations that most people don’t experience day-to-day, magnified by the fact that much of the time our passengers have a flight to catch or a meeting to reach.
As a business, we need to adapt and fit in with our customers’ day-to-day lives, we want to be part of the conversation, so being where the customers are is vital.
To give an idea of just how rapid and valuable social media is, London City Airport’s following has increased by 131% in just three years and our Twitter account alone has gained 100,000 followers in that time.
There is no other medium that can provide as big an audience ready to engage with you.
Our strategy puts our passenger at the centre; we focus on our passenger profile and align that with relevant social media platforms.
We only operate on those significant to LCY passengers as we’re not looking to have a presence on a platform they’re not using, which is why our priorities are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
The focus for us is quality not quantity, we want to add value in any way we can. This approach means that what we’re getting from social media is significant because we’re making real connections and generating tangible engagement.
For example, we provide customers with news and updates about the airport (be it the latest route or retail promotion), gather feedback and opinions directly from passengers, and adopt a tone of voice which is playful yet informative – we want to have a human conversation with our customers.
This gives existing passengers a direct line to the business, connecting them to the brand, and increases awareness amongst potential new passengers.
What makes London City Airport unique is its speed of transit, convenient location (the only airport actually in London) and premier customer experience. Social media helps to uphold these USPs.
When it comes to passenger traffic, LCY remains a relatively small airport. And although we did accommodate 4.5 million passengers in 2016, our size certainly comes with benefits. It means we can be nimble and work with our dedicated terminal teams to troubleshoot issues on the ground, should they arise.
Last year we investigated how we could improve our customer service via social media, by bringing the online and offline together.
We created an internal WhatsApp group linking the social media manager with relevant customer service agents across the airport, giving us a quick and easy way to communicate directly.
Our intention was to be able to provide that extra level of customer care for passengers. For example, if a passenger tweeted with a query, we had the ability to provide assistance offline, through a member of staff who was already up to speed with the situation, within minutes.
This has improved the customer service experience by allowing us to react quickly and effectively with no delay in response to the passenger, and adding a human face as the next step in the communication process – actions, not just words. The result is a streamlined customer service offering that goes above and beyond passengers’ expectations.
Since rolling out the internal WhatsApp initiative, there has been a significant increase in overall positive sentiment relating to passenger experience. Not only does this benefit LCY, but the many concessions within the airport as we’re always on hand to provide assistance with restaurants and shops.
We have also embraced new tools that provide automated practical help. LCY Flight Info, which we have launched on Twitter and Facebook Messenger, uses BizTweet’s social decisioning software to communicate real-time flight information to customers.
Both departing passengers and those waiting for passengers to arrive can access the required information – you simply send your flight number on the day of travel via Twitter or Facebook to receive personalised flight information, including up-to-the-minute departure or arrival times, and boarding gate numbers.
This removes the need for passengers to constantly check flight information screens, which has a practical benefit for the airport, reducing bottlenecks created by overcrowding near screens, which can be an issue at peak times due to the limited footprint of the airport.
With 64% of the UK population active on social media, the precedent has been set. Social media is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ for businesses. It is also constantly evolving, so companies must be able to adapt and respond accordingly.
This two-way form of communication is extremely valuable to both business and customer when used correctly. No matter what the strategy, customer service should be a standard thread within any business social presence; it’s already embedded in the customers’ expectations.
The opportunities within the aviation sector are only going to grow. In September, KLM became the first airline with a verified WhatsApp business account and Virgin Atlantic announced that all of its flights will be equipped with Wi-Fi. Traditional passenger communications have been thrown out of the window.
At London City Airport, a £350m development programme is soon to begin, which will see the airport add seven new aircraft stands, a parallel taxiway and an extended terminal.
It means the airport will be able to cater for an additional two million passengers per year by 2025.
Social media is now firmly established as the airport’s digital shop window, bite-sized newsroom, information channel and instant access customer service portal.
It will continue to be a vital tool in the future, the challenge for the airport will be keeping up with demand and evolving with our customers.