Timing is everything – and loyalty is earned

Looking for correlations between airline social customer service and growth.

The social media manager of an airline or airport has a challenging job dealing with complaints, bookings, questions about all and sundry … and emergencies.

 

 

It’s not a nine to five job – it’s a 24/7 task for a social media manager at airlines and airports. People have questions and need help anytime, anywhere. Including when stuck in elevators. When it comes to monitoring and responding, in some cases it’s a life-or-death situation. I hope, Amanda Carpenter survived the ordeal of waiting from Feb 14 until Sept 7 in an elevator at the airport before somebody on the social media team responded to her tweet.

Oh, and Ms. Carpenter is not just anyone – she is an accomplished CNN contributor. Not that this matters – regardless of who you are, if you need help you should get it while you are still breathing.

Just testing

Knowing her to be a journalist, I seriously hope this was only a test to check the response time of @Amtrak – but you never know.

Airlines and airports – as well as many travel & leisure providers – are industries where a Twitter conversation is an important channel for customer interactions. So, in 2013 I wanted to find out how and if these industries had embraced this opportunity on improving customer satisfaction and grow their business despite a challenging market situation.

With the help of Datasift, we analyzed the response time on Twitter of 33 different airlines worldwide over a period of 30 days. At the time – 2013 – there were more than 100,000 tweets from customers mentioning the airline either directly or via hashtag. If ran today, the numbers would have multiplied.

tweetsairlines

 

 

CEOs want social media presence to influence buying decisions

At least that’s the prevalent argument. Social media was about sharing and engaging with family and friends – who in turn influence our buying decisions. This was the major argument in favour of companies investing in these channels. And 3 years later it’s still up there as one of the reasons CEOs invest.

So, I asked my family, friends and wider network eight short questions about whether they had ever tried to contact an airline via social media, whether the airline responded, and whether you were satisfied with the response – leading to a positive customer experience. And repeated this survey in 2016 to see if things had changed.

Turns out, they hadn’t. The sample is in no way stastistically significant with 35 responses then, and 46 responses this year. But what is interesting, is that things hadn’t really changed that much. The airlines who were most responsive in 2013, were still the best and most appreciated in 2016. And those who sucked… well, they still sucked. Except two: American Airlines  and Lufthansa Group

 

guitar

It is often said that it is almost impossible to reverse a bad reputation, which United Airlines has felt ever since it lost the famous guitar.  But it is possible to build a great reputation as American Airlines has done, and jump 33 points on the J.D. Powers  customer satisfaction index for airline industries. Simply by focusing on social profiles and social interactions.

American Airlines started running regular workshops with their staff teaching all customer facing employees how to navigate in the social media space and to pick up trends and grumbles before they turn into storms. In 2013 they were rated below average – three years later they had climbed the ladder significantly.

Twitter – a marketing channel or a conversation?

This graph shows the response rate versus customer interactions for some of the airlines in the study. You will want to look for the white space – the gap between the organge response line and the yellow staples signifying number of customer mentions either directly via their Twitter profile or in hashtags. The whiter, the better.

detailtweetsairlines

Other than American Airlines, United and Delta, British Airlines stands out as being very non-responsive. In 2013, they “loved reading tweets” on their global Twitter account, but were only ”answering 09.00 – 17.00 GMT on weekdays.”

BA2013.png

For my analysis, I picked those airlines respondents had mentioned. Lufthansa was among those who were very present on Twitter showing promotional images of their aircrafts engine power, happy pilots and stewardesses, and pictures of the clouds in the sky. But for customer service, in 2013 Lufthansa referred people to download a detailed form on their website, and fax (!) or email it to their customer service centres.

Air travel remains for many people an uncomfortable, disappointing and grumble-worthy experience. Things have changed both for Lufthansa Group, American Airlines, United Airlines, and to some extent British Airways. But the grumbling persists.

ba2016

As with United Airlines and the lost guitar, the reputation of British Airways for non-supportive customer support remains a stigma. And the execution for both airlines appears still to be slightly lagging at least according to the 46 responses on my little survey.

Is there a correlation between focus on social customer service and growth?

Imagine if you could simply take these findings directly into the board room and demand more resources for your social customer service initiatives.

Unfortunately, it would require a lot more detail and a larger survey sample to draw any conclusions worthy of that, but the financial results before taxes and interest for some of the noteworthy airlines from the original study show some trends, especially if related to growth in passenger numbers.

KLM is famous for it’s pioneering efforts in engaging customers on Twitter with their many innovative ideas. But this analysis cannot illustrate the impact, if any, because they had since merged with Air France. But they are both on the top ten index of the world’s best airlines, so it can’t be all wrong. Similarly, Lufthansa Group now comprises Swiss who already then were performing well in the response rate plus acquired several more in the interim years.

We shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Even obvious correlations may be false friends.

In 2000 there were 327 deaths by people entangled in their bedsheets and per capita cheese consumption in the United States was 29.8lbs. This has grown to 717 deaths and 32.8lbs of cheese by 2009. A clear correlation over the years.

cheesandbedsheets

 Enjoy more of these obvious and very funny correlations by Tylver Vigen here.

What I am trying to illustrate with the cheese in the bed sheets is that we cannot draw any conclusive data from the social media engagement rate and the financial results or passenger growth in the airline industry. There are too many additional data points that influence or need to be filtered out. It requires more computing power than I have available. But it would be an obvious task for some of the now very hot artificial intelligences being launched by many IT vendors. What if I could ask IBM’s cognitive intelligence Watson  to do an analysis?

I did in fact ask Watson about something else – stay tuned for my next blog post on the Kobayashi Maru – or how I convinced Watson to change its impression of my Twitter personality. Take a look at @echrexperiment on Twitter to see how I did it.

So, is there a correlation between a company’s financial growth and turnover and how socially engaged they are in their customer service function?

The short answer is yes and no

Sorry, if this wasn’t helpful.

If you compare customer satisfaction index, the financial results before taxes and the passenger growth of these airlines in 2013 adding the filter of how they were rated in engagement on Twitter with their 2016 results and growth, all of them have grown. But not necessarily because of their satisfaction ratings or social media engagement, but due to other strategic measures such as mergers, geographic focus, improved fleet etc. The numbers provided in the below chart are based on the annual reports and official websites of each of the airlines comparing 2013 with 2015.

financeairlines

 

It can make all the difference in the world

On this chart one airline stands out with negative growth in passengers and the lowest financial growth 2013 – 2016 on results before taxes and interest. But it is also one of the most Social Airlines in terms of response rate.

Scandinavian Airlines Systems was facing bankruptcy in November 2012. Media reported hourly on the negotiations between trade unions and SAS leadership and executive board. They were trying to agree on terms that would make SAS more competitive and allow the airline to bring in more capital to avert the crisis.

Meanwhile, over the course of that week, travelers were deeply worried. But SAS had a social media strategy in place already. Following the infamous volcanic ash cloud closing down airspace in most of Europe in 2011, they had kicked off their social media channel with a focus on providing active assistance and service to their passengers.

During that dramatic week, one social media manager in particular – Cecilia Saberi – stood out with her calm and constructive responsiveness, her quiet charm with a twinkle in her eye. She worked day and night, slept on the sofa in the office for a few hours only to resume responding to concerned passengers, media and sensationalists. Her approach was sincere, open, genuine and fact-based. And she showed with every comment, every tweet, that people interact with people, not machines or corporations.

CeciliaTweet.png

(Bård tweeted a link to a newspaper site: “SAS in collapse. SAS very close to bankruptcy.” Cecilia responded within minutes: “Hello Bård, we are flying as usual, but of course all these speculations in media create unnecessary uncertainty. Have a nice day! //Cecilia”)

SAS did not lose their passengers during that week as far as is known. Because business continued as usual in a very unusual situation. As is often the case, despite sensationalist media reports creating issues without proper attention to facts.

I repeat – Timing is everything

As you can see from the below Skytrax 2015 airline ratings, customer satisfaction does not necessarily lead to better financial results or more bookings.

But during a crisis, loyalty and genuine openness and care – including responding while the response is still helpful and not leaving a journalist in an elevator for 6 months – can make the impossible possible and turn around a potentially disastrous situation into even better experiences.

Cecilia no longer works for SAS – but how she interacted has become the style of the social media team and is well appreciated by the customers. The seats may be shaky, there is no silver ware in business class, but Scandinavians remain loyal a little longer while SAS gets itself sorted.

customersatskytrax

 

Rätt Data i Rätt Kontext

businessman hand holding colorful transparent glass cubic

Introduktion till nätverket Digital CMO

Av Peter Johansson

Digitaliseringen har gett marknadsföringen tillgång till mätbara data och drivit branschen ljusår framåt. Men det ligger en utmaning i tolkandet av dessa data. En utmaning som nya nätverket Digital CMO har tagit sig an.

Reklambranschen är en av de branscher som anammat digitaliseringen på mesta sätt. Idag har reklambranschen inte bara en uppsjö nya digitala kanaler att rulla ut sina budskap via, de kan även bygga sina kampanjer och mäta deras resultat med en precision som snuddar vid individnivå.

Det varma mottagandet av digitaliseringen kommer av naturliga skäl: Det datadrivna tankesättet är en grundstomme i marknadsföringen. Att använda kunddata som verktyg för att skapa relevanta budskap är vad jobbet går ut på, så att säga.

– Data som styrmedel för kommunikation är något som alltid legat naturligt för marknadsförare. Man har ju alltid jobbat med att ta fram sina målgrupper, definiera vem man ska prata med, i vilket sammanhang och sedan tajma det, säger Elisabeth Bitsch-Christensen, nätverksledare för Stockholmskretsens nystartade nätverk Digital CMO.

Inte bara data, data, data

Det gäller dock att inte stirra sig blind på siffrorna. Det finns otroligt många stand-alone verktyg som alla på sitt sätt utlovar Utopia. Men det räcker inte med data på ett pie-diagram som visar vad som har hänt. Det verkliga värdet av dina data kommer först när de tolkas utifrån ett relevant sammanhang. Som den amerikanska tidsskriften Forbes beskrev det när de nyligen vände på statistikern W. Edwards Deming klassiska citat ”without data, you are just another person with an opinion”

till

”Without an opinion, you are just another person with Data”.

– Vad vi behöver är system som sätter detta i perspektiv, som ger bakgrund och kontext för den data som visas, och som lägger till aspekter som mänskligt beteende, makro- och mikroekonomiska faktorer och disruption. Vi behöver skapa insikt av data och applicera det till företagets utveckling och mål, säger Elisabeth Bitsch-Christensen.

Hur kan nätverket hjälpa till?

– Det finns otroligt många kloka människor i Stockholm och Sverige som har tagit till sig detta tankesätt från den ena eller andra vinklingen, och dessa människor behöver ett forum där det kan möta kolleger och stakeholders.

Därför har hon startat nätverket Digital CMO. En första träff hölls i september och ytterligare tre träffar är spikade under hösten. Närmast, den 7 november, fördjupar sig nätverket på affärsnyttan med beteendedata. Elisabeth Bitsch-Christensen har bjudit in Mikael Karlsson från Dagens Analys och Andreas Quensel, analyschef på Expressen.

– Vi kommer att bjuda in föreläsare, och själva berätta om våra erfarenheter. Vi tittar på trender och fördjupar oss i rapporter. Vi kommer att kommer att ha kul också, det är en viktig del av marknadsförarnas vardag, avslutar Elisabeth Bitsch-Christensen.

Make your Market Data Speak – and become a sales hero

Let’s all agree: Marketing is a strategic and mission critical function in any business. But unfortunately, this is rarely recognized. To prove your value as a marketer, show that your marketing investment supports the business.

810x430-data-driven-culture

The ongoing discussion about ROI and metrics is sidelining the key issue: It’s no longer enough to measure number of leads generated in push-campaigns, you need to measure engagement and generate quality behavioral data. Marketing contributes to business strategy and growth. And you – the marketing professional – can become a hero for the sales organization by turning the data into valuable insights.

What we as modern marketers need to do is to focus on the business and how marketing can be even more successful through collecting the right data to work smarter and engage the right audience. For me, it’s always been about the data. And luckily for me – it’s available from just about everywhere. Marketers need to take the front seat in the digital era and learn why and how data driven decisions make a difference for marketing impact.

“Customers today expect—and demand—a seamless and relevant experience,” says Teradata. “They have grown accustomed to marketers’ knowledge of their preferences and anticipation of their needs. Fractured or conflicting messages from a brand make marketers seem unorganized and annoy customers, sometimes even driving them away.”

The topic of data and marketing is making it’s way into the board room, and decision makers require market and customer centric data to guide them.

Johanna Lindskog Lindell, a Swedish data strategist and PR professional, explains:

“Just like your company, your customers leave a digital trace. Customers expect you to know and understand their interests and preferences. With each interaction between you and your customers, they become more and more open and transparent exposing their behaviour and interests. Make use of these insights so that they can become the building blocks of your business.”

Easier said than done

In his blog in June, 2015 Jonathan Buckley of Qubole provides some useful insight on what it takes to create a datadriven culture in the enterprise, emphasising the need for both visionaries, tools and accountability in the process. But not all of us are sitting at the big round table, and for marketing to take a seat where visions turn into strategy, there is a both bottoms up and top down approach.

Johanna is a major influencer in the Swedish PR-world. In her regular blog on Resumé, published by Bonnier Business Media (in Swedish) she elaborates on how to build a datadriven strategy that keeps you out of trouble and gets you closer to the board room when decisions are made:

  1. Consolidate your data

Combine the data available in your organisation to drive strategic decisions, understand your customers and the perception of your brand. To strengthen your brand, you need to understand your position in the market…

  1. Listen

Success depends on how well you identify and understand your customers by letting their data speak to you. It’s not just about your brand and what you want to communicate. By listening you will understand what type of problems people want to solve, and what interests them. These insights are invaluable for your business.

Johanna

  1. Develop strategic campaigns

By listening you will gain insights and understand what drives your customers, what their engagement is about and how they perceive your brand. Using this data you can create strategic activities which can be applied to your entire organisation.

  1. Optimise and improve, try and try again!

Optimise your campaigns as you go by interpreting the information shared by your customers, and stay focused on customer driven marketing. Most companies and most people want to see metrics after a certain time period. I prefer comparing data with yesterday’s data. Mostly to see how well I have succeeded, what I can optimise and what I can improve.

What’s a petabyte?

So what is datadriven marketing? It is the creation of value that supports business objectives and your strategy. And it’s really quite mind boggling, how much data we as marketers have access to.

cartoon-turkey-data-science

 

In less than five years from today, experts predict that our annual data creation will reach nearly 45 trillion gigabytes, that’s 45 million petabytes. The human brain is estimated to store the equivalent of 2.5 petabytes of binary data. 2.5 versus 45 million petabytes.

You could also say that the available data in the world is more than what is stored in the brains of the entire population of – say – The Netherlands.

With all this data available to individuals, corporations, and governments, you will benefit hugely if you build your marketing strategy and execution on data.

When data is leveraged brilliantly, it can reveal highly useful patterns and trends. And you will find things to improve, not just in marketing but in other business functions as well.

 

 

 

 

Your website is your business

Remember the early days? When companies were proud to announce that they, too, were “on the internet”? When all they did was digitalise their corporate brochure and added an info@ email address. Which sometimes even wasn’t clickable.

Unfortunately, despite all the technology, all the amazing professional designers and developers, there are still far too many websites who do not engage and add value. (At this point, I could add a “wall of shame” to this blog entry, but that is not a nice thing to do. I am sure, if you are one of them, you know it by now.)

Speed is the new currency of business

Your ignition key is your website if you want to keep up – and speed up – your act. Modern marketers develop content and interactions based on websites and landing pages where all customer interactions, and thus all the useful data you need in the sales follow up, is tracked, monitored and converted into actionable insights and next steps.

If you do not understand how to act and react fast and to the point, chances are you and your business will be disrupted by someone who does.

waze

Stay on target. Keep the content valuable, up to date, and avoid click baiting your audience to capture their information – and then leave them dissatisfied with the quality of the information they committed their personal details to get access to.

And whenever you create a website, think about what you – yourself – would look for and where you would look. Or better, if you have the time and the budget, engage with an agency that specialises in user interfaces and website navigation.

Be honest and transparent

Recently, I crossed the Oresund Bridge between Copenhagen and Malmö for a quick Christmas family visit. The lovely young agent in the toll booth offered me 50% off my total fee for two crossings, if I saved the discount code on the receipts and logged into their website within 28 days to claim my discount. Pretty straightforward.

Oresund-Bridge-51575

But I never found out how to do it! Because after navigating around the website, checking all the tabs, using the search function, using the FAQ section – there was no mention of this possibility. I gave up twice. Then, finally, on the last day of the offer I gave it a last try. And I realised that the offer was directly connected to purchasing a BroBizz – loyalty program where frequent travelers across the bridge get 50% off their normal fee. But I live very far away, and would normally not go via this route.

Not only did the website make it impossible for me to find what I was looking for, because search functions and FAQs did not include this offer = not up to date. They also were not completely transparent about the main objective of this special offer campaign: to get more BroBizzers.

Be up to date

So, whenever you create a campaign that is driven through your website – make sure the content, layout, call to actions and data management is up to date and synchronized. And that your employees are properly briefed about the campaign objectives and how it works.

You lose consumer respect much faster than you can ever regain it. For someone like the company operating the Oresunds Bridge, the website IS their business. It’s the only channel they have to interact with and add value for their customers and potential customers. With more than 20,000 vehicles passing over the bridge daily according to www.orestat.se there is a lot of potential.

Be social

And your business is social. For inspiration, take a look at www.waze.com – also in the business of facilitating traffic. With this little app, GPS navigation has been seriously disrupted. Users want more than just maps, they want to know where the traffic buildup is right now, where the speed traps, the accidents, the roadkills are at the very moment they are heading in that direction – and what their route options are if they want to avoid them. And while they are at it, they can be social, collect points, rise levels (I am a Waze Warrior and striving to become a Ninja). Google Maps is losing ground as we all outsmart traffic together.

Wikepedia explains, and has more details:

Waze (pronounced ways), formerly “Freemap”, is a GPS-based geographical navigation application program for smartphones with GPS support and display screens which provides turn-by-turn information and user-submitted travel times and route details, downloading location-dependent information over mobile networks.

waze

And in the past month, Waze even had a special Star Wars theme, where C3PO was giving me the directions, and I could collect points by driving on roads where no-one had gone before and thus add to the quality of the maps available to all. Collecting little Tie Fighters. Sadly, this little game is over now.

Happy New Year!

A big thanks to @holman – read his article on what developers were facing when creating websites in the 90s. Those who tried to go beyond digitalising the corporate brochures.

 

What is datadriven marketing? Well, it depends…

Datadriven marketing means capturing and analyzing data from the abundance of available transactions and interactions between you, your company and your market – and turning them into meaningful conversations that engage your audience.

It’s all about analyzing the data available to you with the purpose of charting patterns, volumes, trends so that marketing can make business intelligent decisions based on insights around actual customer behaviour.

If you google “what is datadriven marketing” you will find several different perspectives:

  • Using data analytics to drive marketing decisions – says IT
  • Create marketing insights based on the analysis of data about or from consumers/customers – says Marketing

There is no way around it. We have to combine forces.

The 2013/2014 CMO-CIO Alignment Survey (Accenture) revealed that digitalisation is bringing IT and Marketing together, albeit slightly hesitant. 45% of CMOs believe “more collaboration is needed” with the CIO – while 43% of CIOs believe marketing requirements and priorities change too often.

So let’s turn the discussion around – why are we really here? Both Marketing and IT must contribute to the success of the business. They are literally in the same boat. How does datadriven marketing change all that?

Profiling, marketing personas, multi-touch communications using marketing automation tools; we all use these techniques to create a strategic engagement/nurturing cycle. But we must base it on insights – on the actual available data including your social customer engagements.

The enemy of any marketing campaign is complexity. None of this works if your IT department is unable to extract the information = data you need when you need it. And put it into context.

Make your data speak!

The overall objective of datadriven marketing must be to turn data into actionable insights. Because if you look at data in isolation, it is dead. Data is merely a reflection of something that has already happened. Any transaction in your ERP is history as soon as it is captured, including any customer interaction you may have recorded in your CRM. It’s what you do next, that’s important. According to Gartner,

Data-driven marketing refers to acquiring, analyzing and applying information about customer and consumer wants, needs, context, behavior and motivations.

You should take a moment to watch the excellent video from Gartner for Marketing Leaders.

To make your data speak, you have to apply filters that create patterns of behaviour which you then use to create a communication strategy for a continuous cycle of engagement.

Tom Kaneshige on CIO.com explains how:

Data comes from many sources but not all contribute equally. Marketers also have the unenviable task of separating the good data from the bad data. It’s a work in progress, and CIOs can help CMOs learn about the many internal and external data sources and their value to marketers. Tech vendors can assist in this difficult process, too.

… By the way, not everybody is a fan, especially when you define datadriven as metrics-driven.  Robert Glazer  maintains that if marketers only focus on satisfying particular metrics, they may fail to capture the greater good for the company:

Clicks, time spent, and conversion rates only describe what people do, not why they do it. If marketers rely on data to tell them what works, creativity no longer drives the message. Instead, an obsession with data leads to metrics tunnel vision, and as brands shift from their creative offensive, they neglect to consider consumer engagement.”


FT.com/Lexicon

“Data-driven marketing refers to the marketing insights and decisions that arise from the analysis of data about or from consumers.”

Author Lisa Arthur from Forbes Magazine :

“At its core, data-driven marketing centers on one thing and one thing only: propelling value by engaging customers more effectively.”

Her book on Big Data marketing contains many examples of companies that are already well on their way to becoming data-driven organizations.

Marketing Tips and Tricks

The three touch engagement strategy for audience acquisitions at business events: Idea – Engagement – Push

Source: Where is everybody – where’s my ROI? Tips and Tricks to attract the right audience at your event

Where is everybody? Where’s my ROI?

You have a great concept – you have great speakers – you have great sponsors. You have buy-in and strategic advice from worldclass thought and business leaders. So why did nobody turn up for your conference?

By now, you have been discussing internally whether you should charge a fee and how much. You have wrung your brain about how you can guarantee the sponsors that the audience is who they are targeting. And because you can’t share the delegate data, you really need people to be there.

ID-100314016 (2)

Maybe you need help?

Marketing and strategic planning are there for a reason. They pave the way for your success, be it a campaign, a product launch, or an event. So make sure to get your marketing teams involved before you even set a date.

keys

Here are my three keys to successful events:

  • Content (hey, you’ve got that covered)
  • Consistency
  • Communication

Naturally, there’s more to it but if you don’t have those three Cs under control, you may just end up with a room that may be full, but not with the people you really wanted to share this experience with.

Over the years, I have seen many examples of fabulous conference who never reached the intended audience, because there was no consistency in how the event was promoted, and there was no strategy in the communication to the intended audience. So in panic mode, just to fill the room, organizers at the last minute started forfeiting fees and/or asking friends and relatives to show up to fill some chairs.

Actually, …

What organizers sometimes forget is that it’s not the size that matters. Bigger is not better, if the addition is irrelevant. On a side note, conference guests actually sit more comfortably and breathe a lot easier if the room is not cramped. If you host a dinner party at home, you make sure your guests are comfortable and are able to move. So half empty is not half bad.

So…

Use your marketing and communication experts to remain consistent, persistent and agile. Select your theme and make it relevant and timely. Partly, it’s something you can buy. Tools such as email marketing automation can help you build an engagement ladder that starts with alerting your audience to what is coming, and continues to add teasers and more content to finally compel them to not just sign up – but to be there on the day.

Oslo

Next time you plan a conference, make sure to plan with the end in mind:

On the day you want a room with an audience that is pleased with what they came for and therefore open to engage with you and your speakers and sponsors.

Because that is the real ROI of  your event.