If someone were to ask you to name an organization that is known for its customer service, I bet none of you would have named a low-cost airline. This is precisely why I have decided to focus my case study on JetBlue.
JetBlue is an American-low cost airline founded in 1998 by David Neeleman. The airline commenced operations in 2000 and currently flies to over 90 destinations in the United States and surrounding region.
JetBlue’s foray into social media began in 2007 when it faced what came to be known as the “Valentine’s Day Crisis”. On Valentine’s Day in 2007, a snow storm had engulfed the Northeast, causing JetBlue’s flights to be grounded. Thousands of JetBlue’s passengers were stranded as the airline had underestimated the severity of the storm. On that day, only 17 of JetBlue’s 156 scheduled departures left the airport. Needless to say, passengers were furious. To contain the situation, then-CEO David Neeleman took to Youtube to apologize for the debacle and explained the measures JetBlue was undertaking to improve and better serve customers. It was then that JetBlue realized the value of social media.
The research value is twofold. On one hand, there is a lot to learn from how JetBlue uses social media in the provision of customer service. Especially when the airline industry has become more competitive and operational costs have increased, low-cost airlines would do well to differentiate themselves by providing exceptional customer service.
On the other hand, there is only so much that social media can do as engagement and interaction takes place mostly online. That said, there must therefore be some tangible effect as to what the customer experience on the ground. Hence, the research questions are:
RQ1: How does JetBlue leverage on the use of social media to enhance the provision of customer service?
RQ2: How can JetBlue use social media to complement the customer service experience provided on the ground?
- JetBlue’s interactions are natural and organic
- JetBlue uses the unique features of each platform appropriately
JetBlue’s social media activity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were tracked and monitored from 2 Feb 2016 to 15 Feb 2016. Below are the key analysis of each social media platform:
– Primarily for marketing purposes
– Vacation promotions and deals
– #VacationStateofMind and #JetBlueGetaways were the dominant hashtags
– Used for public relations purposes
– Wide use of wit and humour when interacting with users
– Medium to address customer queries, feedback and complaints
– Used for brand awareness purposes
– Video posts to break the monotony of the pictorial posts
– Main purpose is to entice users to vacation and fly with JetBlue as evidenced by the pictures of destinations that JetBlue plies
Analysis and Findings
A recurring theme is that JetBlue’s social media content appears to be very customer-centric and thus, effectively addresses its customers’ wants and needs. As such, this would explain why JetBlue is able to enhance customer service. However, a chasm exists between JetBlue’s social media efforts and what actually takes place on the ground. This is an issue because even if a customer has a largely positive experience with JetBlue online, brand perception can be negatively affected if customers encounter an unpleasant experience on the ground. Hence, JetBlue’s current use of social media does not address all the potential touch points encountered by the customer.
There is no immediate need for JetBlue to launch any additional campaigns because it currently has two running concurrently. They are #JetBlueSoFly and #FlyingItForward. Both campaigns appear to be reasonably successful and have gained commendable traction. Thus, the proposed recommendations aim to integrate JetBlue’s business operations with its social media use so as to improve the customer experience on the ground. In other words, the recommendations attempt to ensure that the customer service experience, both online and offline, complement in each other.
Strategy 1: #JetBlueLive
The first strategy makes use of Facebook’s latest feature – live videos. It will detail the work that selected frontline JetBlue employees go through. There is great interest in the work that airline employees do as evidenced by reality tv shows featuring the likes of Southwest Airlines for example. In addition, the live Q&A session will also allow customer to direct their questions to relevant departments as opposed to going through customer support. Moreover, this strategy is especially useful during crisis situations such as flight delays and cancellations as richer information is provided in real-time. In essence, what this strategy aims to do is to deepen the human connection between JetBlue and its customers. The bonus is of course if empathy towards JetBlue’s employee is built.
Strategy 2: #JetBlueSOS
#JetBlueSOS allows JetBlue to filter through the noise and get to customers who require immediate help. There are times when the airport is really busy especially during peak periods and customers are unable to get any assistance. Thus, by going onto Twitter and providing information requested by the social media team, customers will have their concerns immediately addressed and relevant employees will be sent to render assistance.
Despite being a relative newcomer to the low-cost airline industry, JetBlue has established itself as an endearing brand that is undoubtedly a customer favourite. JetBlue is far ahead of the field in the provision of customer service relative to its competitors. However, more can be done in terms of realigning the customer service experience online and offline.