Last week we released our latest report in the Skift Trends series, Social Media Customer Service Strategies for Travel Brands 2015.

Below is an extract. Get the full report here to get ahead of this trend.

While the public nature of social media is one of its defining characteristics, hospitality brands are now actually seeing a boomerang back to a more private approach on these platforms. Instead of posting messages on the public pages, customers are seeking ways to privately message brands.

Joshua March of Conversocial believes that the “biggest forward-looking thing” they are seeing in the social media customer service segment is in messaging applications, which he believes are encroaching quickly on email and livechat channels. This not only reflects the more personal approach customers seem to prefer, but the growing importance played by mobile in social media use.

“It’s the live-chat experience but built for mobile,” he says, pointing out that it also offers the benefit of being asynchronous (allowing the customer to continue the conversation later) and is connected to smartphone notifications. “It has the potential to be a really powerful service channel.”

This summer, KLM launched its Facebook Messaging button on its page and saw an enormous increase in private messages to its team. It also recently tested the use of WhatsApp for its Dutch customers with strong results, and is considering expanding that more widely. Hyatt has been using Asian messaging app WeChat to connect with the Chinese market.

March stresses that “so many interactions that happen with hospitality brands now happen on a smartphone,” including booking flights or hotels, broadcasting complaints or posting photos in real time. This has made messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, that “combine the live chat experience but with smartphone notifications,” a great fit for the space.

“We believe we should be where our customers choose to be,” says Tjalling Smit, Senior Vice President of e-Commerce for Air France and KLM. “It used to be Twitter and Facebook, and increasingly we see that people now choose their own social network and we believe we should be there as a brand.”

But he adds that the brand has moved into each of these new platforms cautiously, since once they make the commitment to these various audiences, “there is no way back.”

 

Photo Credit: WeChat offers a way for consumers to get direct, personal interactions with brands.