Move along, Twitter – Facebook will be the future of customer service in travel

Sorry, Twitter lovers – It’s time to upend some common assumptions.

NB: This is an analysis by Shubhodeep Pal, vice president for products and operations at Simpliflying.

We’ve known for a while that airlines are one of the Top 3 most socially responsive “industries” on social media.

That certainly is still true.

A bigger myth that has been perpetuated over the last few years, is that Twitter is most suited to this goal.

The trouble with Twitter

Those who’ve followed the evolution of social customer service are certainly correct in their understanding that Twitter is well-suited to it:

  • it reduces clutter better than Facebook, enabling one-to-one interactions with brands
  • it’s real-time and allows tracking of events better
  • it allows easy switching between public and DM (Direct Message) modes;
  • its introduction of hashtags introduced a novel way of tracking real-time, subject-specific conversations.

It seems, however, that Twitter has been caught out on three counts:

1. Trolls reside on Twitter much more than on Facebook

Twitter knows it, and has done very little to expunge them, or control their proliferation. From myriad fields — most of all politics, terrorism, to sundry matters — trolls have made Twitter their own playing ground.

2. Twitter hasn’t innovated as well as Facebook has

I cannot, for instance, remember the last truly remarkable product/feature introduction by Twitter. Facebook introduces something new — even if it’s minor — every other week these days. It shows that they’re on their toes.

Twitter meanwhile is stagnating in a curious morass of mediocrity.

All you remember is: web app design changes that everyone hated (I still can’t find where various options are); the native Mac App hasn’t been updated in ages; third-party developers who outdid Twitter’s apps throttled by the company.

It has no seemingly viable plan for driving up user numbers, revenues and profits. No wonder its CEO recently stepped down.

3. Facebook is where — quite literally — the entire internet is

Where Twitter has 302 million monthly active users, Facebook sits pretty with a mind-warping 1.44 billion monthly active users.

By all counts, Facebook marches forward in its quest to connect the entire world, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it succeeded.

This is a problem.

Twitter is stagnating, with little indication of what direction it wants to take.

The conversations these days on Twitter are quieter; there are fewer jokes; even media folks only occasionally plug their stories before steering clear of the trolls.

Even I, an ardent follower of Twitter since 2009, find myself at its lowest ebb in 2015.

It’s true for those whom I used to follow as well. (If only someone would measure tweet activity over the years, I’d suspect this empirical view would be supported by numbers.)


Is Twitter customer service dead?

Recent research indicates that brands are not doing enough to respond to queries on Twitter. The opposite story is true of Facebook.

For instance, in Q1 2015, while airlines responded to 85.5% questions on Twitter, they responded to only 45.4% on Facebook.

It is true that, statistically speaking, Twitter receives a much larger volume of queries than Facebook does, but that does not explain away why response rates on Twitter are low across all industries as compared to Facebook.

For example, Telecoms responded to 88% of their 500,000 Facebook queries, but only 46% of their 1.5m Twitter queries.

If Twitter was working better, everyone would do more. Something doesn’t add up.

Twitter, it must be lamented, has done nothing at all to make the life of those receiving queries on Twitter any easier — neither with features, nor with reduction of trolls, nor by inviting new audiences.

Consider this, then:

Where Twitter hasn’t yet managed to greatly cross the 300 million active users mark, Facebook has a portfolio of products that boggle the mind: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp. Three heavyweights that continue to grow in popularity each month.

And now that Facebook has the users, the attention, the features, it’s going to tighten the screws on Twitter and shove it out of the Social Customer Service game.

All about Facebook

Let’s begin with some numbers: Facebook Messenger currently has over 700 million active users. Of these, over 100 million were added between March and June 2015.

For context, that’s one-third of the entire user base Twitter has built till now. In three months. Let that sink in for a while.

It’s no surprise then that Facebook is now focusing on giving businesses the tools to reach out and communicate better with their customers — many more of whom are obviously using Facebook than Twitter.

And hence, the huge focus on building Facebook Messenger into an independent platform in itself. It’s quite clear that Facebook is doing its best to ensure that Facebook Customer Service is the future.

Let’s look at a few airline-specific social customer service scenarios:

Response times

How many times have you gone through tweets and replies on Twitter or Facebook comments to fathom how soon you might get a response to a question you ask?

To solve this problem, KLM unveiled a smart solution about two years ago, when it started updating its Twitter and Facebook cover photographs to indicate current expected response times.

They still do it — see it in action here.

A few days ago, Facebook started rolling out a new feature on its Pages that will automatically display Response Times and Response Rates of businesses.

Also, when a Page has a high response rate, this information is displayed publicly to visitors alongside a green messages icon right below the Cover photo on the left-hand side of the screen.


Scaling responses

Often, a large number of queries received by airlines revolve around similar questions — or questions that can be answered similarly.

For instance:

  • “My baggage hasn’t arrived. What should I do?”
  • “My payment went through but I haven’t received my ticket.”

It would be much simpler to respond to such messages with a saved template — which is an option that expensive third-party software provide.

Facebook is currently testing Saved Replies, a tool that lets businesses offer quick responses to common questions, conversation starters etc.

One of the best things about this new tool is that — just like email campaigns — saved replies can have auto-populating placeholders to enhance personalisation, while you create a new message and save it in your vault.


Context-rich messages and payments

Earlier this year, Facebook also invited businesses to trial its new Messenger for Business platform.

Forget the age of DMs on Twitter. Take just a few cases:

  • Forget the age of live-chat on websites — those pop-up windows that are slow, irritating and temporary. Facebook Messenger will allow businesses to directly integrate Messenger with their websites for those who have queries. Customers can get notified directly on their phones via Push Notifications.
  • Facebook Messenger will offer a whole new level of contextualisation and rich content. Special offers, tickets etc can all be sent personally to customers who will know at a glance what they’re being offered.
  • It is also not a far cry to suggest that, in the future, Facebook Payments will allow airlines to very conveniently sell tickets and re-book passengers without ever having to leave Facebook.


It’s really not hard to see why Twitter appears badly outdated in comparison to Facebook’s features and conveniences.

The future?

While Facebook’s rapid innovations are certainly showing the right way to do social customer service, the W word lingers at the back of the mind of most marketers.

Will WhatsApp — with is treasure trove of 800 million active users — ever become a viable customer service option?

When WhatsApp for the web was launched a few months ago, it seemed that finally this vision would come to fruition, but that has not happened yet.

Challenges remain — scalability; spam; and conversation tracking are all issues that cannot be ably handled by WhatsApp right now.

Developers have been waiting for ages for WhatsApp to finally open up some APIs, but that looks unlikely.

Our guess is that Facebook Messenger will become the de facto customer service platform, and WhatsApp will stay away from this space.

NB: This is an analysis by Shubhodeep Pal, vice president for products and operations at Simpliflying. The article originally appeared in two parts here and here.

NB2: Twitter-Facebook and Twitter-Facebook icons images via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Mike

    What no one has mentioned is that consumers prefer facebook as their list of friends is much more relevant and personal than the average person’s followers on Twitter. When it comes to complaining about bad service – this matters. A Facebook post can be shared many times to people you can then tell the full story to and influence. Twitter followers tend not to be so personal. Customers know this and use it to their advantage.

  2. Paul Brugger

    I think the response rate speaks volumes “while airlines responded to 85.5% questions on Twitter, they responded to only 45.4% on Facebook.” – Why is Facebook so low, maybe it isn’t suited to real-time customer service…. hence they need to innovate to enhance the platform to be where Twitter is.

    Ultimately the answer is that airlines need to be where their customers are, some will prefer Facebook other Twitter. Airlines will need a scalable solution to both platforms (and others).

  3. Henry Harteveldt

    Beyond consumer reach, Facebook’s single biggest benefit over Twitter is that the writer is not limited to 140 characters. Its second biggest benefit is that it’s easier and more intuitive for a consumer to find a business on FB because, free of the 140 character limit, a business can label itself more clearly and intuitively (this is especially important for businesses like hotels, where a traveler may have brand-, loyalty-, or property-specific questions or service requests).

    If Facebook wins this sector, it will do so more as a result of its simplicity than anything else.

    • Shashank Nigam

      You’re right Henry. Ironically, it was Twitter that was supposed to be “simple”, and it seems that 140chars is now its Achilles heel!

  4. ASB

    “For instance, in Q1 2015, while airlines responded to 85.5% questions on Twitter, they responded to only 45.4% on Facebook.” Numbers flipped?

  5. VioletI

    There is no better reason that Twitter can’t introduce more travel related updated. I always prefer Twitter while traveling and facebook its like commercial upto the neck as compare to Twitter which is a clean platform…


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