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Lithys 2018: United Airlines - Social Support Champion

Lithys 2018: United Airlines - Social Support Champion

 Company: United Airlines

Company background: United Airlines and United Express operate approximately 4,600 flights a day to 357 airports across five continents. In 2017, United and United Express operated more than 1.6 million flights carrying more than 148 million customers. United is proud to have the world's most comprehensive route network, including U.S. mainland hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark/New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. United operates 757 mainline aircraft and the airline's United Express carriers operate 551 regional aircraft. The airline is a founding member of Star Alliance, which provides service to 193 countries via 28 member airlines. For more information, visit, follow @United on Twitter or connect on Facebook. The common stock of United's parent, United Continental Holdings, Inc., is traded on the NYSE under the symbol "UAL".

Contact: Molly Hennessy

Title: Senior Manager Customer Recovery and Social Media Technology

Related URLs:

Lithy category: Social Support Champion

1. What were your organization’s social customer service initiatives in 2017-2018?
Customer experience and positive brand sentiment

2. What was the most important customer issue you were looking to solve via your digital technology (e.g. community and/or social media management platform)? What makes your approach to customer satisfaction a gold standard in the industry?
Meeting customers in their channel of choice

3. Please share customer satisfaction metrics, both qualitative and quantitative, as well as agent and response time metrics (e.g. CSAT, decreased customer complaints, call deflections, agent SLA, manual processes eliminated)
Through the first half of 2018, United’s social media care team has responded to more than twice as many customer inquiries as it did in the first half of 2017, with an average response time that was 85 percent faster. That’s led to significant improvements in customer satisfaction, with a more than

The airline business has changed. Somewhere along the way, it stopped being just about getting passengers from one place to another, on time and with their bags. Customers now demand more than ever in terms of service and responsiveness, and how you meet that demand means the difference between success and failure in this industry.

2017 was a difficult year for United as its brand took some serious hits in the court of public opinion. But as hard as it was, the silver lining is that the airline emerged from that period more committed than ever to putting its passengers at the center of everything it does. For proof of that, look no further than the company’s approach to social media customer care.

In years past, social media ranked a distant second behind United’s traditional telephone- and email-based customer care in terms of team size and scope of operations. That all changed in 2018. First, the airline doubled the number of employees on its 24-7 social media outreach team to provide customers with timelier responses. Second, it empowered those employees to offer customized solutions – such as making itinerary changes and issuing compensation in the event of a service disruption – as opposed to being merely a conduit for information and updates.

Through the first half of 2018, United’s social media care team has responded to more than twice as many customer inquiries as it did in the first half of 2017, with an average response time that was 85 percent faster. That’s led to significant improvements in customer satisfaction, with a more than 50 percent increase in conversation sentiment that turned from negative to positive, underscoring United’s mission to be a more empathetic airline. And passengers are taking notice.


“Thank you to the twitter team @united for helping me with my ticket today! Whoever ML is…give them a raise they helped me get it all figured out! Thanks!” - @VinMan17

“So far @united has moved my flight to get me to Chicago earlier to avoid the storms. Their Twitter support team, especially RY, has been stellar.” - @NerdyPam

“Shoutout to @united social media team for helping me make an impossible connecting flight tonight!” - @rickwestrate

“@united really helped me today w some potential travel issues. Than you for being available even when I was at 37,000 feet.” - @MShultzCPA


But perhaps the most heart-warming success story revolves around the journey of Blue Bear and Pink Blankie. After a recent flight with her young son, Shiloh, customer Marcel Quinn tweeted at United asking for help in finding his beloved teddy bear and blanket, which were accidentally left at Denver International Airport.

“After the airplane door closed, we realized the bag was missing,” Mrs. Quinn wrote. “Try explaining to a four-year-old they cannot turn the plane around to get his bear. Tears were flowing.”

A social care employee saw the tweet and contacted United management in Denver. Within an hour, the bear and blanket had been located and were on their way to being returned to the Quinns. In a follow up post, Mrs. Quinn tweeted a photo of her son cuddling up next to them, along with the message, “Thank u for helping reunite Shiloh with Blue Bear and Pink Blankie!”

While the work is far from over when it comes to beefing up United’s social media presence, it’s hard to argue with those kinds of results. From an employee standpoint, it’s also hard to not be encouraged by the growing number of happier customers who are choosing to once again fly the airline thanks in large part to these kinds of efforts.

Through it all, Lithium has been United’s trusted partner, providing an important piece of the foundation on which a new and more caring approach to social media is built. The ability to prioritize social media posts based on issue severity and customer type has proven invaluable to the airline from a service and customer retention standpoint. And Lithium’s reliability is second to none; in fact, in the days following the unfortunate incident on Flight 3411 last year, when United’s social media platforms received somewhere in the ballpark of 1.5 million posts, Lithium more than held its up end of the bargain, supporting that mass influx of data and helping customer care employees respond to inquiries at a time when anything less would have been devastating to the airline’s image.