Responsiveness Pays Off: Twitter Research Shows Airline Customers Will Pay More Following Good Customer Service

Customers who received replies from airlines through Twitter were not only happier with their experiences but also were more willing to pay more for their next tickets and to recommend that airline to others, according to research from Twitter and Applied Marketing Science.

 Furthermore, "the faster the airline responded to a Tweet, the more customers were willing to pay," the research reveals.

The research showed that when customers reached out to an airline through Twitter and received a response, they were willing to pay roughly $9 more to that airline. And, depending on how quickly the airline responded, customers were often willing to pay even more. While the median response time was about 22 minutes, airlines that responded to a customer's tweet in under six minutes could get away with charging the customer roughly $20 more. "By contrast, when the airline took longer than an hour to respond to the tweet, the customer was willing to pay only $2.33 more for that airline in the future," the research states.

Unsurprisingly, response rate was also closely tied to satisfaction, with customers who received a response quickly awarding the airlines higher satisfaction scores. And satisfaction goes a long way on Twitter—of the customers who received a response from an airline on Twitter, 82 percent shared their positive experience with others. But great experiences on other channels don't necessarily translate into the same word of mouth—among consumers who received customer service via phone, email, chat, or another channel, only 44 percent shared their positive experience.

The reason airlines see such solid results from their efforts on Twitter is because for the customers who reach out to them, the stakes are usually particularly high. "I remember being on a flight that couldn't land [due to weather]. We were circling the airport, and all other flights were delayed, except—sure enough—my connecting flight," recalls customer service expert and author Shep Hyken. "I tweeted to the airline responsible for my connection, and within minutes, they responded that I'd be protected on the next flight out. So when we landed, there was a huge line of people at the airport trying to find other flights, and I didn't have to worry about it," he adds.

Though the study focused on airlines specifically, Hyken says that research into other industries is likely to demonstrate similar findings. "Customers appreciate prompt responses, and they're willing to pay more for better customer service and experience. Time after time, brands across industries realize that going the extra mile to deliver better service means customers will want to do business with them, even if it means paying a little extra," he says.   

For smaller companies that don't have the manpower or technology backing to facilitate prompt responses, however, scaling up to deliver the response rate that customers expect is a challenge, points out customer service author and speaker Chip Bell. "While ease of access and speed of response are obvious in the 'time's up' world of today's customer, they are made confident by companies' participation with new technology. It is a bit like not trusting a small business that does not have a Web site. Competitive advantage and customer affinity come from dealing with a winner, and today that includes embracing cutting-edge channels." It's always tougher for small businesses to keep up with bigger brands in terms of scaled service, but social media makes it more realistic—and rewarding—than ever before. 

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