KLM’s 1 Hour Social Media Guarantee Fails the Test


As we all know, there are some airlines that do a good job of responding to customers via social media channels and there are others that just don’t. Then there’s KLM, which has decided to go above and beyond and guarantee a response within 1 hour to any Twitter or Facebook post. ANY tweet or post? In the words of Barney Stinson . . . challenge accepted. Unfortunately, KLM failed miserably.

First, I had to make sure I understood the limits of this thing. After speaking to some PR folks, I found that if you tweet @KLM or leave a message on the airline’s Facebook page, then KLM will respond within an hour. This doesn’t include country-specific KLM handles, like @KLM_US, so I had to limit my search. (Those will only respond during business hours.)

I asked if this only guaranteed a response to questions, but it sounds like KLM is trying to respond to just about everything that comes in the door. This is what I was told:

Anyone in the world can send a tweet or leave a message on Facebook and there will be a response personally within one hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. . . . As for sarcastic questions and complaints, KLM responds with apologies and tries to remedy the error.

Ok, I get it, but what if it isn’t a complaint and just a random statement? I asked for clarification:

No it doesn’t even have to be a question to get a response! If KLM is in the tweet KLM will respond if they can help.

Hmm, so “if they can help,” huh? That would seem to limit it to some extent, but that would’t stop me from trying. I opted to start with probably the least likely thing to get a response.

My KLM Tweet

Seemed like a good way to see if KLM really would respond to EVERY tweet. And it didn’t. I never heard a word. I guess that’s not too surprising – it was just a random statement. I forgot about my quest and then picked it up again yesterday with two more tries. In the middle of the night Amsterdam time (anyone can do it during business hours), I sent a couple tweets. I thought I’d really put KLM to the test.

I created a throwaway account to see if the airline would respond to anyone, just in case my account was flagged for response for some reason. (This was pitched to me by a PR agency, so I figured they’d be watching @crankyflier.) This account has no followers, no tweets, and no profile pic. It’s clearly just a trash account. I looked at the time, found a comment that would make sense (the flight to Houston left just under an hour after I sent it), and put it out there with bad grammar and punctuation just for effect.

KLM Tweet Failure 1

I got nothing. I stopped looking after an hour because by then, the flight would have already left and a response would have been worthless. So I thought I’d go easy on KLM and throw out a softball just to get a basic response. This tweet I sent from my @crankyflier account asking a basic, straightforward, easy question, and if they did have my Twitter account flagged for response, it would pop right up.

KLM Finally Responds

It took a little over 3 hours before I received a response with the most unhelpful answer ever. KLM and Delta aren’t even in the same terminal at LAX. Even if Delta does staff the KLM counter, it’s a KLM counter and KLM needs to know what hours it operates. Wow, this sucks. KLM really is not doing this right.

I was particularly bugged by the 3 hour response time. Maybe Twitter was just suffering through delays. Yeah, right. There was no fail whale to be found, but just in case, I sent an airline that knows how to run social media a tweet.

Delta Tweets it Right

As you can see, within 6 minutes, I had my response. Thank you, Delta, for really doing an awesome job with this. But let’s get back to KLM. That one hour thing is a guarantee, right? So I should get something since they failed so miserably.

Bzzt. Wrong answer. It’s a hollow guarantee that’s not backed up by anything. And a guarantee that’s not backed up by anything isn’t much of a guarantee at all. So, kudos to KLM for putting together a great, ambitious effort. But you guys really blew it in the implementation.

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11 comments on “KLM’s 1 Hour Social Media Guarantee Fails the Test

  1. Way to hold them accountable! Social media can be a great asset to a company that manages it well (such as your Delta comment) or it can be a huge negative ala “United Breaks Guitars”. Bottom line is don’t put something out there unless you can back it up.

  2. I wondered what the KLM website said for your question on what time the counter opens at LAX and I couldn’t find anything or at least not quickly in the short time I looked. I could find where it said LAX has no check-in machines and to use the check-in desk, but nothing on when the counter opens.

    You can ‘click’ on Los Angeles but you will not find that info there either. From there it sends you to the LAX website, but you won’t find ticket counter info when you go to KLM. Just a 800 number to call which is the same as the 800 number listed for Northwest. Guess LAX doesn’t know NW isn’t around anymore so have not updated their website. I assume if you call the 800 number it goes to DL who can give you the info.

    For something as simple as when a ticket counter opens you would think that would be listed on the airlines website.

    Maybe they just hide the info on their website so people can’t find it and get angry or have to look at every page on their website looking for info that may not even be there and get angry.

    Certainly doesn’t look good for KLM if they don’t even know when their counter opens to matter who is working it.

  3. The difference between Marketing and Customer Support.

    This sort of this is completely insane, there’s a marketing person who’s said “Wow – we should be on social media and help our customers”, and the marketing department is trying to do Cus Support. Of course the Mktg department has none of the answers so they have to go elsewhere to get the answers and tweet back

    Where as the understaffed Customer Support department is running at 110% trying to keep up.

    Last year I couldn’t get an answer from Alaska on a question, so I tweeted “Why can airlines like @alaskaair answer tweets in under and hour and take days to answer an email”.

    The underlying problem is they need to answer emails, not start tweeting

    1. I don’t get your concern “Why can airlines like @alaskaair answer tweets in under and hour and take days to answer an email”.

      Tweets are real time. Email isn’t real time. (People get in their heads that it is, but the technical standard says nothing about real time, and delays often are a part of the medium that are accepted as normal by email providers, and not considered to be an operating fault.

      If you need a real time response, use a real time medium: Tweets, Phone call, finding someone (hopefully an employee for that airline!) in the terminal.

      I also just took a quick peek at the Alaska Airlines website. They don’t promise a next day response, instead they state “Please allow 5-7 business days for an agent to respond.”

      I myself place communications medium in the following order of priority (highest to lowest)
      Phone Call
      Snail Mail

      I’d gander many companies have a similar ranking on how they prioritize communications from customers.

  4. Hello Brett, first of all we’d like to thank you for keeping us on top of things. Each day, KLM is mentioned on twitter hundreds to thousands of times, and we value all the great feedback we receive there. We do indeed strive to reply to any relevant tweet within the hour, and realize all too well that – with constantly increasing volumes – that is ambitious. At times, we may have to set priorities to have quality prevail over quantity. Meanwhile, we are constantly working on further improving our service on social media. That includes optimizing information streams and thorough training of our dedicated social media staff. Please don’t hesitate to contact us through twitter again in the future should you have any questions.

    1. Nice PR response, and it was nice you responded.

      But Brett’s test question is a valid one that should be addressed and fixed by KLM.

      Why can’t YOUR passengers contract YOUR airline or go to YOUR website to find out when YOUR ticket counter opens at an airport? Should they really have to call another airline to find out something about YOUR airline that YOU or YOUR website should be telling them? While Delta may handle you in the USA, you still have your own website and are handling your own tweets it sounds like, so you should have the answers.
      Think about it!

    2. If you’re just “striving” to answer social media within an hour, that’s very different than guaranteeing it. Sounds like you need to change your promise because it’s not working, and it doesn’t sound like you expect to to work from your comment.

      But the reality is that you don’t get very many chances with social media. I submitted a couple questions and got no response to one and an unsatisfactory response to the other that took 3 hours. In the future, if I had any sort of time sensitive question for KLM, I wouldn’t take a chance on social media because of my initial experience.

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