United States: Are Airlines More Responsive to Passengers with More Followers?

IT and Social Media

Have you ever asked an airline a question – or made a complaint – on Twitter and never gotten a response? Could it be because you don’t have enough followers? That’s what business school research suggests!

Do airlines evaluate your popularity on social media before responding to your questions – or complaints – on Twitter?

That’s what a study conducted at Simon Business School at the University of Rochester seems to suggest.

Researchers at the business school examined a massive amount of data from major airlines in the United States and discovered that airlines only dealt with 40% of requests for information, and they were most likely to deal with passengers that had lots of followers.

Does the same go for hotels?

“Twitter users with a large number of followers are better poised to influence other users with their perceptions of a brand,” says co-author Huaxia Rui, Assistant Professor of Computers and Information Systems at Simon Business School.

“Knowing these users can be highly influential, brands will have more incentive to allocate their resources prioritizing response for those they view as influential customers, thus minimizing risk and halting a potential social media crisis.”

Airline to Airline

Response time varied from airline to airline, with American Airlines on average responding to queries in 18 minutes; Delta Air Lines, on an average of 4 hours.

Interestingly, American Airlines tended to respond to respond faster to users with fewer followers than to those with more followed. Does this make sense?

“A customer complaint is an opportunity to take an unsatisfied customer and turn them into a satisfied one,” says Abraham Seidmann, Xerox Professor of Computer and Information Systems and Operations Management at Simon Business School.

“And, unlike phone complaints, all these tweets are public, so the world is watching how customers are being treated – on a case by case basis.”

So there could be method to the airline’s madness.

“The counter-intuitive finding for American Airlines hints at an underlying strategy for what the company perceived as high-risk tweets,” Abraham says.

“The airline may spend more time carefully crafting a response to a customer they view as more influential so they do not make a hasty reply that may spark a crisis.”

Engagement on Social Media

According to research conducted by Best Western and Medallia to determine if interacting with customers on social media was important, properties that responded to more than half of the reviews published in social media experienced a substantial increase in customer satisfaction.

“Overall, those properties that increased their social responsiveness by more than 50% saw double the occupancy rate growth of those that neglected to boost their responsiveness,” says Anna Papachristos in Think Blog Customers by 1to1media.

According to Michelle Hummel in Social Media Monthly, fewer and fewer travellers are googling for information using queries such as ‘hotels in San Francisco’.

Instead, they are relying on sites such as TripAdvisor.com, which they consider to be more reliable because they believe them to be written by ‘real people’.

Not only that, an astonishing 32% of U.S. and 22% of non-U.S. travellers blog about their travel experiences on a regular basis. And 46% of people taking a vacation post a review on line of the hotel they stayed after they get home.

So there you have it. You might want to start engaging more people on social media if you want travel industry professionals to take you seriously.

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