Over the past eight years, social media has become a key strategic channel for KLM, for both marketing and customer service, but that situation came about almost by accident.

The 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland created a huge ash cloud that disrupted air travel across western and northern Europe for a week. KLM’s call centres were overwhelmed by customers wanting to know what was happening to their flights.

In response KLM recruited volunteers in its HQ to a pop-up social media customer service team and they worked around the clock until the crisis was over. “That’s where our social media operation was born,” according to Martine van der Lee, director of social media at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

“That crisis really brought back customer-centric thinking in our organisation,” she told the recent Festival of Marketing. “What we learned is that we have to be where our customers are.” (For more, read WARC’s report: From social to AI: how KLM Royal Dutch Airlines leverages tech for better customer service.)

And by being where its customer are, KLM has built what it claims is one of the largest social media operations in the world.

Its social media activity includes content campaigns that bring to life its brand personality, with videos from inside plane cockpits, for example, which have attracted not only aviation enthusiasts but also people who are afraid of flying and who want to be better informed.

At the same time, KLM has developed innovative and responsive customer service technology, using social media direct messaging functions.

That came about when KLM realised that the vast majority of its customers were extremely unlikely to download its app. So the team developed an opt-in system for automated messages, which allows people to book, manage bookings, check in, get their boarding pass and check flight status via DM.

“We now send over 10,000 automated messages every day,” van der Lee reported. “It’s really what our customers tell us to do, that we follow,” she added.

And the better its services get, the higher customer expectations become. So KLM is now turning to AI, which fuels around half of all conversations, and exploring fully voice-activated bookings via Google Assistant.

Sourced from WARC