(Some) Airlines Are Shaping Up Their Customer Service

From flight delays to cramped cabins, airlines passengers often have plenty of reason to complain about customer service. And while some airlines, like United, have recently landed in hot water for less-than-ideal customer service, other airlines, including Hawaiian and JetBlue, are paying attention to customer woes.

Hawaiian Airlines recently teamed up with customer service messaging platform LivePerson to enable its support team to engage with customers via text and add another channel to its customer service mix. Now, agents can handle twice as many service requests by speaking to customers on the phone and texting other customers simultaneously. The addition of support via text was an important move for Hawaiian Airlines, because it provides an easy way to handle quick questions from customers, like the cost of checking baggage. Calls, meanwhile, will serve as the service route for more complex questions.

"It's very popular because there's no learning curve," Tracy Behler, senior director of online experience at Hawaiian Airlines, said in a company statement. "In fact, as soon as guests saw the option, they embraced messaging. The number of conversations occurring through messaging exceeded our original projections since we implemented it in May, and our customer satisfaction with messaging has been higher than with voice, while our agents are simultaneously more efficient."

JetBlue has been making moves as well. The company began working with Gladly, a start-up that builds customer service apps. With its new customer support app, Jetblue will be able to track customer emails, messages, texts, and social media conversations all in one place, to ensure that interactions don’t slip through the cracks as customers switch between channels. The app also gives JetBlue support teams access to a customer’s entire purchase history so that agents know exactly what they’re dealing with. JetBlue is serious about maintaining a customer service edge—the airline actually went so far as to not only use Gladly's technology but also invest in it.

"People just don't want to call in anymore," Bonny Simi, president of JetBlue's corporate venture group, told CNBC. "So we are aiming for omnichannel communication that is on at all hours, that can take advantage of AI to resolve customers' issues as quickly as possible, and that will work with all of the important messenger apps."

Meanwhile, Joseph Ansanelli, Gladly's CEO, has called his company an "alternative to Salesforce" in conversations with reporters.

For competing airlines, Hawaiian and JetBlue's moves should serve as a wake-up call—to keep customers happy, customer service has to be a priority.

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