Sound Communication: The Holdcom Blog

Airline Hold Times During Hurricane Irene

Airline customer service departments had phone lines ringing off the hook during the Hurricane Irene's blast up the east coast last week. If you were one of the unlucky travelers during this time, you probably spent a long time waiting on hold for an airline customer service representative! If you were trying to reach an airline via Twitter, you might have waited hours for a response, or had your tweet completely ignored all together. What could have these airlines done to shorten hold time and provide customers with the best customer service under such unfortunate circumstances? STELLAService, a customer service firm, conducted a survey on airline hold times during Hurricane Irene, and the results are surprising.

 Average Hold Time

Tweet Response

So what does this say about customer service when comparing these airlines? The statistics speak for themselves. Not only did American Airlines have the longest hold time, they also did not respond to any customer queries via Twitter during this time. Delta, on the contrary, responded to 100% of customer tweets with an average response time of 14 minutes while Southwest airlines responded to 83% of tweets in an average of 6 hours and 12 minutes. US Airways boasts the lowest telephone hold time with an average response time of 2 minutes and 38 seconds, but responded to only 17% of tweets.

An effective customer service strategy that Delta used to bridge social media and the massive amount of phone calls was personalizing Twitter support. Each tweet was followed by the initials of a specific Delta agent. If a customer needed to call the airline to further address their issues, they could give these initials and be connected to the agent, increasing efficiency.

Another way to cut down hold times, and better serve customers in the event of an emergency is to answer FAQ's on the airline's Message On Hold. If customers are waiting a long time on hold, provide them with appropriate information and answer possible questions callers may have. Chances are customers will have their question answered without having to speak to a representative.

By utilizing all available contact points to communicate with your clients, you can increase customer service and minimize backlash even during unexpected events and peak times. As the graphs show, there was quite an imbalance of customer service across the given US Airlines.  In an event of an emergency such as Hurricane Irene, every form of communication should be utilized in order to leverage customer service initiatives. Several years ago, using social media outlets to communicate to your customers was almost unheard of.  Today it's important to understand how and where your clients are reaching out and make sure you are there to reply.

Your Customers Are Shouting! Are You Listening?

Tags: Message On hold, customer service, twitter, social media, customer loyalty, communication, on hold communication, emergency response