The travel industry is unique when it comes to social customer service, with research indicating that 56% passengers are more likely to complain about their experience via social media than any other industry. This presents both advantages and disadvantages for travel companies. One key advantage being the ability to listen to your customers, engaging with them through a channel of their choosing. The key disadvantage being that potential crises are amplified, resulting in what may have been a manageable situation becoming a potential PR disaster.

The nature of the industry also means that ‘unforeseen circumstances’ are a regular occurrence; with flights being delayed, services canceled and luggage lost. Paired with the additional strain placed on the travel industry during the summer–with people looking to take their annual summer break–there is little margin for error when it comes to social customer service. Customers and travelers alike also now expect a fast, responsive service through  social media. And with more and more customers reaching out via Twitter and Facebook, it is essential to have a strategy in place to handle any sharp rise in customer service volume over social platforms. Travel companies that fail to build a proper social customer service strategy to safeguard against a social crisis can face serious repercussions and potential customer dissatisfaction.

With this in mind, here are my five tips to for travel companies get through an ash cloud, strike, or heavy delays without a social media crisis.

1. Ensure social is understood as a service channel

Social media offers the opportunity to influence multiple customer experiences through one interaction. Let your customers know that you are there to help them over social. Push customer service as the topic of conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or whichever channel your customers choose.

2. Keep the customer informed

When problems reveal themselves over social, the amount of patience that the customer understandably has is low. To ensure you are doing everything you can to help keep their experience positive, keep them updated with travel information.

3. Respond to customer questions immediately

Customers come to this channel because it’s quick. Calling or emailing the contact center can be frustrating and slow. The aim should be to respond in real time! Try to get to the most important time critical messages first – “banter” can wait.

4. Personalized response

Every customer is an individual, therefore it is important to respond to them as individuals. Try to avoid standard or canned responses as much as possible as the customer wants to communicate with the brand, not an automated service.

5. Track, report and learn

Every interaction on social can be learned from. It is important to keep track of what has been spoken about, how your team have responded and how efficient your service has been, so that the next time that a crisis or a spike in interaction comes around your service has taken a step forward and improved. For example, First Great Western tap in to social to firstly respond in real time but also take great advantage of the available actionable insight to improve their service.