Are airlines operationally ready for real time customer service in-flight?

As I listen to all the capabilities of the newest IFE systems and advantages of connectivity, I keep coming back to the same question - are airlines operationally prepared to handle real time customer service in an online environment?

For example, if I’m a passenger on a plane and have an issue in-flight and I reach out via Twitter, other online platform or integrated tool, is the customer service team at the airline equipped, trained and ready to solve my problem before I land?

As I look at the airline landscape, there are a few shining stars. Today, I want to highlight just one as an example.

@DeltaAssist - 24/7 Assistance

I was privileged to hear a presentation last Fall from the team at Delta that heads up @DeltaAssist.

If you aren’t familiar with @DeltaAssist, it’s a team at Delta that uses Twitter to monitor passengers as a real time support staff.

The video below is an interview with Allison Ausband, Vice President of Reservation Sales and Customer Care for Delta, who explains a bit more about the program.

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There are three components, in my mind, that mark this program as a success.

  • Use of existing technologies
    Delta understood the need and benefits of real time support and used existing technologies to provide that level of support on a meaningful scale.
  • The right people
    The team is staffed with customer service reps. This is really important. Many social media accounts are staffed with interns or are outsourced to marketing agencies. Delta used a team of individuals from Delta that had the knowledge of how to help and empowered them to do it quickly.
  • Return on investment
    When we asked about cost savings, ROI, etc, the team, looking a bit coy, said, “We can’t be very specific, but it’s been a big success.” Allison, in the video above, also reports that the sentiment around Delta’s brand has improved by 7% as a result.

The video below shows one example, albeit a high profile case, of how @DeltaAssist responds to customers.

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The @DeltaAssist program has been successful enough that the team has recently launched @DeltaAssist_ES to help Spanish speaking customers.

Resource planning for connected IFE systems

Let me be very clear about the point I am making. Putting in processes, people and systems to support connected, real time support (I’m not talking about phone support) takes some time and has a learning curve.

If you are looking at installing an in-flight entertainment system that will allow customers to connect in real time, then you will need to allow enough time and resources to meet the demand.

Jumping in now and creating something akin to @DeltaAssist is a great way to prepare for later roll-outs.

About Adam Williams

With six years of IFE experience, Adam is currently a freelance writer for several industry publications and marketing consultant for vendors. He can be found online at and @SpeakWithAdam.

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