Southwest Airlines is the tops for speedy Twitter customer service

With more and more customers turning to social platforms like Twitter when they need help with a company’s products or services, social customer care is increasingly critical and a worthwhile investment.

But many companies are bad at it and there remains significant gaps between the level of service offered by firms, even within the same industries.

That can be seen among a number of large American airlines.

Dean McCann, founder of Help Handles, which tracks social customer service performance, looked at the Twitter response times for four major carriers between August 29 and September 26 and found that the top performer delivered a first response time of 16 minutes compared to nearly 2 hours for the poorest performer. The rankings, from best to worst, were Southwest, Delta, American and United.

Southwest responded to customers in 15 minutes on average, and 90% of the mentions it responded to were responded to within 30 minutes. That appears to be the result of Southwest’s concerted effort to engage with customers through social, which McCann described:

Southwest Airlines invest in listening to what their customers are saying over social media with a comprehensive Listening Center at the heart of their 24/7 customer service operation. The Listening Center is operated with staff from across Communications, Customer relations and Marketing functions to assist customers at any point in time during their travel journeys.

United, on the other hand, took an hour and 43 minutes on average to respond to customers, and just 62% of its responses came within 30 minutes.

The second best performer was Delta, and the second worst performer was American.


Not surprisingly given the numbers, Help Handles says that Southwest had the best sentiment score of all the airlines tracked, while United had the second worst.

The company’s rankings somewhat mirrored those of the 2016 Airline Quality Rating report, which ranked Delta, Southwest, United and American from best to worst.

The industry is getting the message

It will be interesting to see if and how airlines improve their social customer service in the coming year. According to a study by Simpliflying, which polled senior management at 90 global airlines, social customer service is a major priority for 40% of airlines, up from 32%. What’s more, social customer service is more important than branding, ancillary revenues, loyalty programs and crisis management.

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Challenges, such as aligning social media operations to overall operations, still exist, and there is some uncertainty about budgets, but given that travelers increasingly expect to be able to get help from social channels, and can cause very public fusses when they don’t, expect more and more airlines to get it right.

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