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Is social media an effective customer service tool for the airline industry?

New research published by Emerald explores levels of customer satisfaction when complaints are handled via Twitter

Boston, United States, September 5 2016 – As the popularity of social media continues to rise, many organizations use platforms such as Twitter to communicate with their customers in real time.  

Social media platforms have also become a way for customers to express their positive and negative experiences with organizations in a very public way.

To explore how social media is used to deal with service failures within the airline industry, authors Ying Fan and Run Hong Niu conducted the research ‘To tweet or not to tweet? Exploring the effectiveness of service recovery strategies using social media’, featured in the International Journal of Operations and Production Management. It is the first attempt to study a service recovery process in a social media context.

This qualitative study, published by Emerald Group Publishing, is based on real data rather than a scenario-based evidence approach and is thought to be the first of its kind. It examines how five major international airlines - Delta; United Airlines; JetBlue; American Airlines; and Air Canada - have managed service failures using Twitter; and explores the effect a Twitter agent’s response can have on a customers’ emotions and levels of satisfaction.  

Fan and Niu explain: “When Twitter agents only provide further directions and customers need to act further to resolve their issues, customers’ frustration remained unchanged, or got worse in 74% of the cases.

“The only effective response reflected by the data appears to be problem-solving. A majority of the customers (78%) felt better after the Twitter agent took actions to solve their problems.”

Service recovery and problem-solving methods include services such as helping people to re-book flights, make connections or retrieve lost air miles. As suggested within the research, compensation was only offered in 2% of the cases included in the study.

This research has been made free to download between September 5-12 to coincide with the 5th World Conference on Production and Operations Management (P&OM) in Havana, 6-10 September, at which Emerald will be exhibiting.

Patti Davis, Publisher, Operations, Logistics and Quality at Emerald said “Emerald’s P&OM content positively contributes to the theme of this years’ conference, as is emphasized with the research article ‘To tweet or not to tweet? Exploring the effectiveness of service recovery strategies using social media’. 

“We are very excited to be a part of this conference, especially as it only occurs once every four years.  We are also looking forward to discussing potential contributions from new and existing authors to two of our key journal titles Special Issues in the wonderful location of Cuba!”

Further information regarding submitting papers to the Special Issues featured at the conference can be found here:

The article ‘To tweet or not to tweet? Exploring the effectiveness of service recovery strategies using social media’ is free to access between September 5-12 by clicking this link 

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About Emerald Publishing:
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Emerald Publishing was founded in 1967 to champion new ideas that would advance the research and practice of business and management. Today, we continue to nurture fresh thinking in applied fields where we feel we can make a real difference, now also including health and social care, education and engineering. We publish over 300 journals, more than 2,500 books and over 1,500 case studies, via our dedicated research platform


Nicolle Vare
PR Executive
Emerald Publishing Limited
Phone: +44 (0) 1274 785252