It’s time to talk travel. This fondly remembered hobby is now on the minds of many, after being pent up due to COVID-19 restrictions. Demand for flights is soaring – Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian reported that March 2022 had been the carrier’s best month for sales in its history, while the four major U.S. airlines (American Airlines, Delta, Southwest and United) are planning summer schedules that are 4% to 20% larger than one year ago. Amidst this summer travel rush, airline worker unions are warning that travelers could endure months of continual flight delays and cancellations – in other words, travel within the near future is likely to be a bit of a headache.
While airline customer service has been notorious for its long wait times, does this long-standing perception really hold true? How long are customers typically left waiting, which channels are the most helpful, and where are timely responses most likely to be received? We at Netomi were eager to take a deeper dive into how airlines today are delivering customer support via web chat, social media and phone. We visited websites to engage with virtual assistants, called customer service phone numbers and sent messages via social media platforms. After careful analysis of 20 of the largest airlines in North America, the report cards are in.
Netomi’s 2022 Airline Customer Service Benchmark Report: The Top 5 Findings
- The award for best overall customer service goes to… WestJet: This Canadian airline was found to provide the best overall customer service, with an SPI of 82.56 out of 100 (the Support Performance Index is a 100-point scale that was used to measure the quality of customer support). WestJet performed the best overall in terms of its cross-channel support, scoring well in availability, responsiveness, response time, personalization, relevance and empathy – all of which are key qualities of customer support teams. Spirit Airlines and Porter Airlines round out the top three.
- When it comes to speedy resolutions, social media reigns supreme: The average response time for inquiries sent via Twitter is 42 minutes, and 75 minutes for Instagram.
- Twitter is the better social media channel for support: We found that the overall quality of the support provided by airlines was 38% higher on Twitter than on Instagram, with 100% of the responses received through this channel also more relevant to the questions that were posed.
- Chatbots are few and far between: While chatbots have been widely adopted for customer service, only nine airlines (45%), had a chatbot on their website. Of those who have leveraged chatbots, only WestJet and Spirit Airlines had prominent chatbot pop-ups, while others were hidden within help sections and knowledge bases.
- If calling airline support teams, it may be wise to have a newspaper handy: The study found that the average hold time across all days and times was 56 minutes – 41 minutes on weekdays, and 1 hour 16 minutes on the weekends. Aeroméxico, Spirit Airlines and Sunwing Airlines take the lead in providing the best phone support.
Where to Next?
As travel picks up steam in 2022, prioritizing responsiveness and timely service across channels is key for airline customer service teams. For many, travel, along with its various elements (flight delays, booking and lost luggage) can be stressful and time-consuming. To scale their support across traditional and digital support channels, many airlines today are turning to sophisticated AI tools, leveraging a unique combination of human and machine intelligence to tackle repeatable and costly support tickets with ease, decrease resolution times, and ensure smoother journeys ahead.