An Interview with Andrew Mathwin – former Social Media Manager at Jetstar Airways

This is the first in a series of interviews with real life practitioners and leaders who are using social business and social media in their organisations to connect with customers.

iGo2 : Tell us a little background on Jetstar Airways’ social business journey

Andrew : We started our social media journey at Jetstar about one and half years ago.  We wanted to be where our customers were – which was Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Forums and a variety of other channels. We also wanted to be able to help people with their travel questions and ultimately to improve their travel experience from booking to departing a flight.

Whilst we are part of the Qantas family we operate very separately as often we are talking to different customer groups with their own needs and requirements. Jetstar Airways is already well known in Australia  – however in time I’d like to think Jetstar will be known as a major Pan-Asian brand. To reinforce this just this week we announced the creation of a new airline, Jetstar Japan. We are very much focused on customer response through a number of what we call ‘Community Managers’.

iGo2 : What is the primary strategy behind your social media presence and activity?

Andrew : Our primary strategy is to improve brand awareness, generate conversation around travel and provide customer service for our customers online. We know travel can be an extremely stressful experience so first-and-foremost we wanted to be ‘there’ to help people with their travel questions – whether it be baggage allowances or real-time disruption information – this enables us to quickly and easily improve the travel experience for a passenger and their family.

Social media also provides us access to a real-time customer feedback channel. This helps us improve our product and create exciting engagement opportunities to drive interesting conversations around our brand.

iGo2 : So if you are primarily focused on customer support in social media how do manage this?

Andrew : We use Radian6 to track anything said about Jetstar, our products and other key areas we want to engage in conversation. To do this we have what we call Social Leads, who monitor conversations across all social media sources and who are able to address a problem quickly, assign a comment to someone with Jetstar or escalate if necessary.
There may be up to 17 people at Jetstar involved in this process, which allows us to be quick and nimble in all situations. When there is a crisis situation like the Queensland floods earlier this year or the volcanic ash cloud we will assign additional customer service representatives to monitor and respond to questions on the social data streams.

iGo2: How do you decide which issues to respond to and which to ignore?

Andrew: We’re very careful to only engage in customer conversation where we’ve been invited to comment or can help people. We have built a process based on experience to date which helps us determine which questions need immediate response and which comments should be left to continue by their own means. . We normally respond to more than 10,000 requests a month but in a crisis this can spike to more than 1000 per day so we have to manage this very carefully.

iGo2 : What else do you utilize social business intelligence and monitoring for?

Andrew : We use social media for not only customer engagement but recruitment of cabin crew, product crowdsourcing, engagement with bloggers and media and internal communications for a global workforce. With the further expansion into Asia we are also seeking to expand our monitoring further into other social networks like RenRen and Weibo.

iGo2 : Besides customer support, how else do you use social business to drive business results for Jetstar?

Andrew: We have four Facebook pages and in our first year we have achieved 175,000 fans on those pages. We also operate four Twitter accounts and have more than 100,000 followers at present including Jetstar News (@jetstarnews), which we use for breaking news and crisis management. We launch a competition a week through these channels and we work very hard to create conversations in our communities by having competitions that encourage people to involve others in the conversation. For example, we had a recent competition where people where encouraged to submit their thoughts for the new cover of our Jetstar magazine – selecting from a few alternatives and creating a conversation around why they selected a particular cover. This enables our customer to directly be engaged with our brand and influence something seen by thousands of travellers.  We plan out these outbound conversations and competitions up to a month ahead for each local market.

iGo2: We understand you don’t actually sell tickets through social channels yet or allow seat reservation like perhaps Southwest Airlines or Malaysian Airlines. Any plans in this regard?

Andrew: No immediate plans but clearly we watch what others are doing and we have been looking at ways to introduce this kind of capability into the future.

iGo2 : So now we get to the hard part – show me the money! Do you track the ROI of your social business initiatives and if so, how?

Andrew : In our case this is very difficult as its very hard to directly link revenue to our programs because we have an integrated campaign model and we don’t sell directly in the channel where the campaign is running. But we do measure engagement statistics – the number of conversations we engage in; the brand reach, the share of voice and the sentiment of these conversations. We do know that satisfied and engaged customers translate into growing revenues for us. And of course we can measure directly the contribution of traditional campaigns, even where they are supported by social channels.

We get some other results that are also surprising – for example, 40% of our cabin staff come to us through Facebook engagement.

iGo2: You mentioned Crisis Management a little earlier. Can you provide an example of how this is handled through social media.

Andrew: The airline industry has immediacy to it that few other industries have and social media is very well suited to that. A great example is earlier this year in the Queensland floods when untrue rumors began circulating that we wouldn’t exchange flights for people who were caught in the floods. As you would expect this generated a huge amount of negative conversation online – in fact more than 30,000 people were involved in this conversation in just 15 minutes! We responded to this by confirming that we would honor refunds, allow people to rebook at no cost or obtain a voucher.  This information was sent out via all our social channels and we corrected misinformation as soon as it occurred. Within 30 minutes we had more than 37,000 people actively having a conversation around the fact Jetstar were refunding flights. In fact we became a trending topic in Australia all around a positive response to this disrupt. I will say that we have had six natural disasters this year with weather events like the floods, cyclones and volcanic ash so we’re becoming very good at these recovery efforts!

iGo2: We see other airlines using social media very poorly like Tiger Airways and when they have a crisis like their recent grounding by CASA their woes just seem to multiply. What do you think of how they use social channels?

Andrew : We don’t like to comment on other airlines and their use of social media. We prefer to focus on our own initiatives and the way we can utilize social channels to improve our customer conversations. We believe it positively impacts our business

iGo2 : Any other insights you can share with us on your use of social business tactics?

Andrew : We have a management team who are great believers in Social Media so our program will continue to be an important part of our service and marketing mix. We are planning to integrate our social activity directly into our CRM system where it makes sense. And we download our Twitter and Facebook data regularly for risk and compliance reasons. And we will continue to look for ways to improve the customer experience through the innovative use of social media.

Note: Since this interview was done, Andrew has left Jetstar and moved to a Marketing Director role at PlayUp Interactive. He is happy to be contacted on twitter @matho77 with any questions you might have. Jetstar and Andrew were kind enough to share these insights with us