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SimpliFlying Featured: 'Socially' Conscious Airlines

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Airline Business, March 2015 Issue - Embracing mobile media can increase customer loyalty and, with deeper thinking, bring about a sustainable advantage, says Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying

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SimpliFlying Featured: 'Socially' Conscious Airlines

  1. 1. flightglobal.com/airlines | Airline Business | 25 jerking video garnered over half a mil- lion views within days of launch. While it might seem like the only purpose of videos such as this is to drive brand awareness, a quick look at the closing credits of each video reveals a different story. The Valentine’s Day video was supported by the Barbados Tourism Authority and a number of local establishments, and the Christmas gifts given to passengers were spon- sored by the likes of BestBuy, giving the brand exposure on a global scale. If an airline such as WestJet can show a track record of producing hit videos, they will not only get other cor- porates to cover the costs of the cam- paign, but even be able to charge them for brand placement. The Middle East airlines have built some of the biggest followings on social media channels. Qatar Airways is the largest in the world on Facebook, Emir- ates is top on Instagram and Etihad gar- nered over 70 million impressions for their recent A380 and 787 videos. These airlines also sponsor some of the most popular sports teams in the world:QatarsupportsFCBarcelona,Eti- had sponsors Manchester City FC and Emirates is a sponsor of the cricket and rugby world cups. What if the airlines told their respective sports teams that a significant effort would be made to di- rect marketing messages towards air- lines’ targeted fan communities? Surely theywouldgetbetterdeals. Social media marketing today has matured enough that it is no longer suf- ficient for an airline to maintain a pres- ence, run contests and engage passen- gers. They need to think of leveraging socialmediatobuildasustainablecom- petitive advantage – both on the consumer end and on the busi- ness end. ■ Social media is no longer about passenger engagement; nowadays it can be used to build a competitive advantage by airlines. As the aircraft touched down in Geneva on my first business trip of the year, and the business class passengers around me turned on their mobile phones, the cabin filled with the un- mistakable tone of new WhatsApp messages streaming into their devices. Almost everyone in the cabin had their eyes glued to their gadgets. This got me thinking: if the first thing most passengers do upon landing is to check their WhatsApp messages, rather than emails, why is it that airlines are not on what is one of the most popular mo- bile messaging platforms yet? I did not have to wait long to discover this might be starting to change. Low-cost airline Transavia recently became the first in the world to offer customer service via WhatsApp. It was a matter of time before an airline jumped on the platform to get in touch with travellers, given that there are more messages sent on WhatsApp today than on Twitter. AWARD WINNER Transavia is not the only Dutch airline on the bleeding edge of social media innovations. KLM, which has won Best Airline on Social Media at the SimpliFlying Awards for the last three years, answers over 35,000 questions per week in 10 languages, within 20min on average. The service is pro- vided by over 150 dedicated agents, making the airline a force to reckon with in the social media space. While there are over 250 airlines on Twitter, many of whom answer ques- tions, KLM and Transavia have built real-time customer service as a com- petitive advantage. They understand that a large majority of travellers just want timely answers to their queries from airlines, using platforms with SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS MARKETING & SERVICES FEEDBACK Embracing mobile media can increase customer loyalty and, with deeper thinking, bring about a sustainable advantage, says Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying “KLM and Transavia have built real-time customer service as a competitive advantage” SHASHANK NIGAM CEO, SimpliFlying March 2015 flightglobal.com/ AirlineBusiness Download your digital edition of Airline Business for free at: which they are familiar. While sitting at a boarding gate, the connected trav- ellers of today would rather type into WhatsApp or Twitter than walk up to a gate agent to check on the flight status. This is where the likes of KLM and Transavia win. They are not just on so- cial media because they have to be: they are truly adding value to the cus- tomer experience. And that builds customer preference over time. While building competitive advan- tage by providing real-time customer service may seem the obvious way to go for airlines, ensuring a sustainable advantage requires deeper thinking. WestJet recently celebrated Valen- tine’s Day by launching a new video, which went viral. The heroes for West- Jet’s latest video were two unassuming Canadian men, who were selected by the airline, as they shopped for a wed- ding ring for their upcoming proposal. The airline whisked them to Barbados, got them to experience the island to the fullest, and propose to their girl- friends at an opportune time. The tear- Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying, one of the largest airline marketing strategy firms, which has worked with over 60 airlines and airports: shashank@simpliflying.com