The airline will now offer customers booking confirmation, check-in notification, boarding passes, flight status updates on the WhatsApp messaging service, and answer customer questions around the world in 10 different languages.
The new service is part of a pilot program by WhatsApps to extend its reach beyond personal messaging and into business applications. WhatsApp has created a dedicated enterprise solution which is being rolled out in a limited number of countries with broader availability in the coming weeks.
KLM president & CEO Pieter Elbers says of the new service:
“I am very proud that KLM is the world’s first airline with a verified WhatsApp account. This unique partnership with WhatsApp underlines our position as an aviation pioneer.
“We want to be where our customers are and, given the 1 billion users, you have to be on WhatsApp. With an account verified by WhatsApp, we offer our customers worldwide a reliable way to receive their flight information and ask questions 24/7. This truly is a major next step in our Social Media strategy.”
KLM has been consistently adding platforms and discovering new digital platforms on which to connect and transact business with customers over the past few years.
Beyond offering customer services on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the airline has also added Facebook Messenger service, WeChat services, recently adding WeChat Pay, and is also active on Korea’s KakaoTalk.
The airline maintains a staff of 250 dedicated agents on its social media team who process over 100,000 weekly mentions, about 15,000 of which are questions or comments.
Still, KLM has experimented with AI to boost the performance of human service agents, working with DigitalGenius in San Francisco to accelerate the responsiveness of its CRM tools, making it easier for agents to find the information customers need.
KLM director of social media Karlijn Vogel-Meijer explains that the addition of the WhatsApp platform is just another way for customers to reach the airline, in line with a strategy by KLM to be everywhere customers might be already, rather than forcing customers into one specific platform or another.
“For a company like KLM, it’s very important to be where your customers are.”
What WhatsApp brings to the table are numbers. The airline finds the statistics of international adoption warrant adding the new platform. For example, in Brazil, 85% of all citizens actively use WhatsApp.
It is also a significantly more popular messaging platform in the Netherlands than Facebook Messenger. In the US market, Messenger is predominant. In Asia, and particularly in China, KLM customers prefer WeChat. By adapting its CRM to all of these platforms, the airline can better serve all customers, Vogel-Meijer explains.