Airlines vs. the Polar Vortex: A Chilling Socially Devoted Study

To see the current state of social customer care in the US, look no further than the recent Polar Vortex. Early this January, the frosty calamity gripped most of America in its icy spell, posing a huge test for the social media teams of both airlines and airports. The awful weather conditions wreaked havoc for everyone in the industry, leaving thousands of flights cancelled, airports shut down, and many passengers confused, frustrated, and furious. But because this is 2014, instead of dialing the phone for customer service, a large number of travelers took to the web with their polar problems.

Airlines vs. the Polar Vortex: A Chilling Socially Devoted Study

On social media, the airline industry made a heroic effort to stay on top of the many questions that filtered in from frustrated Fans and Followers. The demand was so high, there were almost double the normal number of questions. And yet the industry stayed strong, with response rates to social media enquiries falling to a passable 20% for the length of the storm, as the volume of demand increased to five times the normal level of demand.

Here’s a snapshot of how top US airlines managed to cope with the storm:

However, there’s still plenty of progress to be made. In the future, we’d love to see that line hold steady, even at the height of special circumstances. When we looked at individual airlines, American Airlines did an incredible job, hardly taking a hit to its response rate:

However, JetBlue wasn’t as able to cope with the flood of questions and complaints. On January 6th, it fell by half, down from their normal 75% response rate, to a low of 37%:

The example to learn from JetBlue, which is the case for many beleaguered social media teams, is that whether there is a crisis, catastrophe or celebration, you need all hands on deck to weather the storm. That means increasing the headcount of your social care team, bringing in 24/7 service, and allocating more of your budget for those special occasions when Fans are flocking to your social media accounts.

Stay tuned for a whole bunch of social care insights next week, on our blog and at! And read here for more info about the history of Socially Devoted.

Social Media Analyst

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