28 Oct 2016

Chat is where it’s at for KLM as it finds customers on new platforms

KLM is betting big on chat services as part of its quest to go where its customers are.

The company began a trial of a rebooking service on WhatsApp at the beginning of the year following on from its initiative to offer customer service via WeChat in October 2015.

It also claimed a first on Facebook Messenger last year with its service offering booking confirmation and boarding passes via the chat app.

CEO Pieter Elbers says digital developments are changing the airline industry at an “unprecedented pace.”

He was speaking at this week’s ACTE/CAPA event in Amsterdam on the need for airlines to change the mindset when it comes to digital, adding that those who don’t will “miss the boat.”

He points to the “test-and-learn”-type strategy of companies such as Google with new releases every day, compared to KLM which does 12 new releases a year of its website.

Elbers says a big part of the airline’s strategy is to be where the customers are —whether it’s on WeChat, Facebook or another platform.

He foresees a trend similar to WeChat in Asia coming to Europe, with all customer interaction happening within the platform, including shopping, hospital appointment, and booking holidays.

Expanding on this, he believes customers may not visit websites in the future. This is why part of KLM’s next step in digital is to go from mobile-first to mobile-only.

“Rather than spending a lot of money on advertising campaigns, there are better ways.

“We need to do it differently. It means we need to go where customers are, rather than spending a lot on getting customers to our website. We want to offer more functionality on external apps, such as WeChat and Whatsapp, because we believe this is where they are.”

The airline also set up shop within Alibaba last year, with Elbers describing business so far as “encouraging.”

“The number of visitors Alibaba gets in one day is more than we would have in a year on our global websites.”

Related reading:

KLM on Messenger and being a speck in the galaxy of digital giants

Phoenix from the Ash Cloud (or how KLM formulated its social media strategy

NB: Reporter’s flights and accommodation for the ACTE/CAPA event in Amsterdam were supported by Travelport.