Southwest Airlines Takes Social Media to New Heights

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has more than 30 employees working to keep the airline’s Twitter and Facebook accounts live, active and responsive 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It’s a must in today’s world where disgruntled customers will take to social media to air grievances about lost bags or delayed flights. The people behind the social media accounts are customer service agents who can find answers and solutions.

“Today, they’re responding to almost every Tweet in under six minutes,” said Lisa Anderson, senior director of social business. “Our target is 15 minutes or less. And to Facebook comments in less than an hour. It’s really incredible not only that we’re able to get to customers that quickly but their desire to get to customers that quickly, that passion.”

“Today, they’re responding to almost every Tweet in under six minutes,” said Lisa Anderson, senior director of social business.

Southwest has had social media accounts for years, however, “we were doing a lot of talking but when the customers were talking to us, we weren’t really talking back,” Anderson said.

That changed about two years ago with the creation of the social media business team and the opening of the Listening Center in the main headquarters near Dallas Love Field. The room has a row of computer monitors where the social media team actively puts out content, promotions and responds to customers.

The room’s most-striking feature is the curved wall of flatscreen televisions displaying news, weather and a cascade of the airline’s Twitter account and mentions.

Across the street, Southwest opened the $30 million Network Operations Center, also called the NOC, last year. The blue-tinted room, so-designed because it’s easier on the eyes than fluorescent office lighting, is where Southwest Airlines launches all of its flights, monitors weather, and other logistics.

The airline’s social media team has a desk right in the heart of the NOC, the raised area called the bridge, that’s manned 24 hours a day, Anderson said.

“Those are very operationally minded folks,” Anderson said. “Their job is to route aircraft. What the social media team provides for those operationally minded folks is the customers’ voice.”

Suddenly, this particular change with an aircraft affects 13 people that we didn’t realize would be stranded overnight. Now, we’re able to provide that where dispatch may be able to make a different decision.”

“We get a variety of things. I just helped somebody fix their TSA pre-check for their flight.” _ Lan Nguyen, senior customer service representative.

Lan Nguyen, a senior customer service representative in the NOC, has five computer screens in front of her that give her the power to troubleshoot problems that customers’ mention on social media.

“We get a variety of things,” she said. “I just helped somebody fix their TSA pre-check for their flight.”

True to its nature, Southwest likes to have fun on social media, too. Last year, when Kanye and Kim Kardashian announced they were having a second baby, the airline joked that they could name it South West because the couple’s first child was named North West.

“It’s a fun little thing for our customers to be able to see the quirky side of us,” Anderson said.

The team has social media meetings every morning to talk about what’s trending and marketing opportunities. On March 8, Southwest Airlines tweeted a photograph of an all-female flight crew in honor of International Women’s Day.

They’ll even jump in on trending conversations.

“When it makes sense,” Anderson said. “You don’t want to jump in on everything.”

The social media team also sends out stories of its employees and blogs. But more than anything, Southwest relies on these team members to get accurate information out in real time to improve customer service.

“We could have a situation where one customer may have reached out via Twitter, we’ve got some answers for them and they become our PA system to the rest of the gate area,” Anderson said.

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