KLM: Using social media to leverage “service, brand and commerce”

A.D.H.    April 2, 2017

When you’re an airline that receives 35,000 social media inquiries per week, you need a fully engaged team to be able to pull off your commitment “to respond to every user comment or question within 60 minutes” and resolve every issue within 24 hours, but this is exactly what  KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is doing. The airline even updates their social media banners every five minutes letting customers know the approximate wait time for a response.

Briefly, according to Socialbakers.com,  the International Airline Company saw the importance of integrating social media across their business “following the eruption of the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, in April 2010. The volcanic eruption produced an ash cloud that spread across Western and Northern Europe; causing airline flights to come to a stall for a period of 6 days. During this time, KLM experienced a large influx of customer service requests, which jammed their call centers and posed a threat to providing high quality and efficient customer support.

Therefore, KLM turned to social media, and with the help of internal volunteers they were able to respond to Facebook and Twitter user requests and provide regular service updates. The effect of using social media networks as a form of customer interaction was profound, and KLM received a lot of positive publicity about resolving customer service issues socially during a crisis. This culminated with the CEO of KLM, Peter Hartman, declaring that the company would invest heavily in developing an ongoing social media strategy, centrally focused around enhancing customer centricity.”

Since that time, KLM has employed 130 people just to answer social media enquiries. They do not answer the telephone or email, just messages on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. According to Ben Davis at Econsultancy “Staff receive five weeks of training before qualifying for social customer care and it’s seen as a more nuanced job than call centre work. Tone of voice is an important part of this training, as is commercial awareness.”

Through the use of social media, KLM is connecting customer service teams with flight attendants and ultimately with customers. By equipping their cabin crew teams with iPads, the airline is able to alert the cabin crew of any issues a customer is experiencing during a flight so it can be resolved before the flight lands at its destination.

KLM’s Customer Experience Department is also using social media to help them surprise and delight their customers. An example of this can be found in the video below.

KLM is also utilizing the tools available through Salesforce to drive “the customer journey by taking service to new heights with Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and Chatter from Salesforce. With email messages that require only one click to book travel, social sharing that lowers trip costs, and inter-department routing for service cases, KLM is pioneering experiences that are revolutionizing the travel industry with Marketing Cloud.” The airline also uses Salesforce’s Chatter platform to connect service teams across the organization to coordinate a response to complicated customer inquiries.

According to Socialbakers.com “KLM institutionalized a company-wide policy that involved a joint effort of multiple departments aimed at leveraging “service, brand and commerce” via social media. A social media management team was formed to consistently post creative and engaging content and campaigns, develop social products and to provide their customers 24/7 service.” As a result of  “direct social contact and feedback with KLM customers resulted in product improvement, more efficient internal processes and an added commercial value.”

Lessons for Others

By using an enterprise social media platform like Saleforce’s Chatter, KLM has made it possible to work as a cohesive unit across departments within the organization. This helps them to deliver on their 60 minute response commitment. No longer do you have to hope someone is sitting in front of their computer to answer an email or hope you’re contacting the right person by telephone.  By using Chatter, all employees within the organization can potentially receive the same message and answer quickly.

KLM is also using technology to help them connect customer service with their staff in the air. This once again is helping to improve customer service and build fans of their brand.

By utilizing social media, KLM has also been able to improve their service offerings and really concentrate on what is important to customers, and saves the company money. Their social media presence has even generated $25 million in revenue for the brand.


Organization: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Industry: Transportation
Name of Organization Contact: Koen Spiers, Social Commerce Manager

Authored by: A.D.H.

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.



Brynley-Jone, Luke (2015, February 24) 3 Examples of Integrated Social Media Strategies. Retrieved on April 2, 2017 from http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-business/2015-02-24/3-examples-integrated-social-media-strategies


Davis, Ben (2014, May 1) How KLM nails social customer care. Retrieved April 2, 2017 from https://econsultancy.com/blog/64779-how-klm-nails-social-customer-care/


Poulter, Ned (2014, March 28) KLM: Service is sales. Retrieved April 2, 2017 from http://www.stateofdigital.com/klm-service-is-sales/

Socialbakers (2012, August 8) KLM: A Truly Socially Devoted Company. Retrieved April 2, 2017 from https://www.socialbakers.com/blog/746-klm-a-truly-socially-devoted-company