What Has KLM Learned From 5 Years of Social Media Service?

Few people had ever heard of Eyjafjallajökull until 14 April 2010. That was the day this Icelandic volcano erupted, causing pretty much all airline traffic to grind to a halt. Around 10 million travellers were affected, forcing KLM to seek new ways of communicating with its passengers, marking the start of our social media service. A lot has happened and changed since then, but what have we learned in the past five years?

1. You have to be where your customers are

Not long after the eruption, every airline desk at every airport was flooded with passengers. Customers tried to get in touch with us by phone and email. Call centres couldn’t handle the workload and people were put on hold for hours, so they began looking for alternatives and turned to social media.

In 2009, we had only just started exploring this new world. We had a Facebook page, a Twitter account and, like most companies taking their first steps in social media, we had no idea what we were doing. We tried posting some pictures of planes, launched a campaign, but mostly we were like kids playing in the sandbox for the first time.

social media service

Meanwhile, thousands of our customers were desperately waiting for a response. Within an hour, we had created a social media room where KLM volunteers took turns answering questions. Some would arrive at 4am wearing their business suits, so that they could do their shift and head straight through to an 8am meeting. Managers became service agents and some experienced direct customer contact for the very first time. Peter Hartman, our CEO at the time, even dropped by to see what “those crazy social people” were doing. And he loved what he saw.

Because our customers used Facebook and Twitter to keep their friends and family updated on their lives, KLM had to be there as well. And so our social customer service was born.

2. If you are active on social media, you MUST offer customer support

You can do all sorts of cool stuff on social media – run campaigns, make great offers, post cool pictures and otherwise entertain and engage your audience – but if you don’t offer customer support, you’re buggered.


3. Fast and Faster

Five years ago, people thought it was fantastic if your company offered service via social media. Nowadays, a response within the hour is sometimes reason to complain. More and more customers are telling us they’ve “already been waiting 20 minutes for an answer”. That means we need to adjust our service to the expectations of our customers, so we’re striving to reduce our response time to 30 minutes.

4. Stay authentic

Our aim was to offer personal service and that is what we offer 60,000 times a week. No automated answers, but a personal reply from one of the KLM service agents – that’s what we pledge to offer and what suits our brand.

5. One-stop shop

Our social media policy is based on the one-stop-shop principle. If someone approaches us on Twitter, we give them a tailored reply, not just a link through to other channels. If we are asked “May I change my ticket?”, we will check the conditions for the specific ticket in question, rather than referring the customer to the general terms and conditions on KLM.com.

6. Improving our business

It’s safe to say that KLM has become a better business thanks to social media and customer feedback. For instance, we were getting a lot of questions about items lost on board, so we set up our Lost & Found Team. This ensured that we could reunite passengers with their lost property far more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

Lost and Found

KLM social media in 2015

Since 2010, our social media service has blossomed into a 150-strong operation, offering 24/7 service in 14 languages on Facebook, Twitter and Vkontakte. And we’re still learning and improving every day. We currently handle 60.000 questions per week through social media.

According to Socialbakers.com, we do an excellent job. KLM answers more questions than any other company on Facebook, and we are also among the leaders on Twitter.

It took an ash cloud for us to realise the true potential of social media service. It’s hard to believe it all began only five years ago…

Posted by:   Gert-Wim ter Haar  | 
Join the conversation Show comments


Kudos! Experienced dealing with the Twitter people on one of my KLM flights and they are just an awesome bunch!

Gert Wim ter Haar

Thanks Eric; how great to hear! You are most welcome here on our blog too :)

Wouter Blom

I was one of the (un)happy people bound to fly out at 18:00 the day all flights where killed during the afternoon.

The website was not available, even in emergency mode. it took me about 15 minutes to find information on Twitter …. and it was there!. The first time twitter was really providing me with actual usefull real time information i could not receive any other way..


Gert Wim ter Haar

Hi Wouter! That must indeed have been an unfortunate situation. Great that you were there when it all started, although it should have been in a better situation. Thanks for your kind words!

Jagath Rupasiri

I read your article “social media service” with great interest.It is highly appreciated that KLM has improved its customer care and business by carefully studying the Social Media Service.This is a good example to other airlines too.I hope the the quality and standard of KLM will never fade.Long live KLM.

Jagath Rupasiri–retired Aircraft Engineer( B2 ) Srilankan Airlines.

Gert Wim ter Haar

Dear Jagath! Thank you very much for your warm words. Our teams will definately do their best to keep up to the standards, or even better try to exceed them.


“No automated answers, but a personal reply…” “…a tailored reply, not just a link through to other channels”. That is what I understand as “RESPECT”
I’m a 58 retired man, but I would happily work for KLM

Gert Wim ter Haar

Hello Sergio. So great to hear we got you enthusiastic about our services. Respect to you too!

June Nelson

This dedication to service is what makes KLM the world’s best airline!

Gert Wim ter Haar

Hi June! Would a ‘blush’ do? ;)

Saskia Kanters

Congrats KLM! Hope you all realize that you also set a great example in the customer contact business! Quite inspirational! Keep up the good work :-)

Gert Wim ter Haar

Hi Saskia. Love your great words; we definately get inspired by them too!


Social Compliments!

Gert Wim ter Haar

A ‘blogging’ thank you, Eva!


Well I’m surprised to hear this: KLM has always been ‘on the ball’ in terms of social media, from what I’ve seen.
You come off as a fun, engaging but very professional company and I’ve never heard a bad thing about you! If I ever get the option, I’ll definitely take a flight with KLM.

Gert Wim ter Haar

Thank you Georgina, appreciate your kind words. We sure hope to welcome you on board one of our flights in the future!


I’ve used the KLM social media customer service twice so far and have been fully satisfied both times! Personally, I hate calling helpdesk and prefer to use self-service, wherever possible. But some things still require manual intervention and your social media helpdesk is perfect !

Just one small hint for further improvement – some types of questions require multiple iterations between the helpdesk and customer. I’ve noticed that at each iteration, the customer goes back to the end of the queue. This could mean – as I experienced yesterday – that the total handling time of a request can be substantial. For example, yesterday i was trying (and succeeded) in changing the date of my flight which required several messages between the helpdesk and myself before we got to the payment and confirmation stage. Each time i had to wait for ~ an hour and in the end, I only closed the relatively simple question in the late evening despite having initiated it some time in the early afternoon.

Perhaps you could create two queues – one for first time requests, and a priority one for follow-ups. This would decrease end-to-end throughput times for customers and I would be even happier !

Great job Gert Wim and KLM, you are a true example for all service oriented companies out there!

Gert Wim ter Haar

Thanks for your compliments and extensive feedback, Jacob. You are indeed correct that currently this is why the full length of a service conversation could be shorter and that case handling can be done even more effective. We really appreciate this detailed feedback and will work with the teams to see what we can do with these suggestions, thank you for them.
Glad to have a happy customer on board; we will strive to make you even happier!


Hi, Klm Team. I need it support and information one time and i found out that the support on Facebook is much faster than over the phone or email. Klm was promt and quick to help so for this i appreciate their efforts. Keep up the good work Klm.

Gert Wim ter Haar

Hi George! Thanks for your flattering comments about our Facebook service. This customer feedback is what makes us tick!

Delfin Vassallo


The warmest congratulations for the great work you’re doing, I know how hard and frustrating this could be sometimes – I also oversee a big social customer service practice for a global company :o) – but also very often is extremely rewarding when you get feedback from happy customers. You’re setting the bar especially high in this industry and became the model to follow for many.

It is especially refreshing to read your honest and transparent communication style, really nurturing that special relationship between customers and brand, with a human touch that makes your customers feel appreciated. At the end of the day that’s the important thing: how customers feel about the brand. Keep up the good work

My respect!

Gert Wim ter Haar

Dear Delfin. How flattering to receive such compliments from a fellow social media service manager; thank you!


I first had to use fb 3 years ago when your site crashed whilst I was checking in, the result was that I lost a special offer, but the agent was really apologetic. E-mail was a waste of time.
I like your comment about providing customer service, or you’re buggered. :-) Most of yhe companies out here would do well to emulate you. Well done KLM, my favourite airline.

Gert Wim ter Haar

Thank you Edward. How great to hear we are your favourite airline company. Hope you continue to use our Facebook services.

Mark Percival

You do a great job. What I really like is the genuine personal service. There’s nothing worse than a copy-paste reply which doesn’t really answer your question, which you get from many internet-based customer services departments. But with KLM, I’m in touch with a real human being. It’s just so much friendlier and makes me feel positive about flying with your airline. Keep up the good work.

Gert Wim ter Haar

Hi Mark. May we copy-paste our biggest compliment for your great feedback? :)

Mark Percival

Sure :)

Gerard van Beek

Why would you reduce the response time to 30 minutes if more and more customers complain they’ve already been waiting 20 minutes? I guess the numbers are mixed up.

Gert Wim ter Haar

Good morning Gerard. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Indeed customer expectations are increasingly showing a wish for shorter response times. We currently have a customer promise of a response within the hour, but are working on improvements of that. 30 minutes would be a great first step, but even faster would definately be better. As you can understand this requires staffing and technical solutions.


I have now tried to change my flight bookings on my account on your site.
I dont have facebook and twitter.
There is no service open to contact by phone.
How shall i get in contact with you??
This is quite urgent!!


Hello Bo, for questions about your booking you can contact us via phone on +31 (0) 20 474 7747 or via LinkedIn http://klmf.ly/1vbfMqS.

Lolita M. Balboa

KUDOS to KLM – my favorite airline!

Gert Wim ter Haar

Many thanks for the kudos Lolita!

Glenn Grube

I am echoing the same positive remarks others have made about doing great customer service. When the volcano erupted, I had several colleagues stuck in London. Using KLM social media, they were able to make ground, water and train transportation getting them to Amsterdam. Once in Amsterdam, KLM was able to reroute them back to the U.S using a number of various southern routes. Thanks to KLM’s social media program(s), gave them current information so they could plan accordingly. Continue the fantastic job!

Gert Wim ter Haar

Glenn, a very good evening from Amsterdam! I really enjoyed reading about your experiences during the ash cloud period. After five years still great to hear we managed to reroute your colleagues back to the USA. Thanks for the compliments and hope we’ll be in contact (again) in the future.


How to describe the Webcare teams @ KLM in one word “Awesomeness”! Finally a company who understands the importance of social media. But most important how to use it as a big benefit! ‪#‎respect And keep up the good work. Any open spots ;-)

Gert Wim ter Haar

Hi David! “Awesomeness”; wow that’s some way to describe our teams. Thanks; we’re flattered! Of course, at any time feel free to contact us with any of your questions.

Vincent Tillema

In 5 years time you’ve build what is probably the best social media team/presence in the Netherlands. Innovative, use- and helpful, relevant and most important: awesome. Great job!

Gert Wim ter Haar

Thanks Vincent. Your comments inspire us to try to be like this for the next 5 years (and longer ) too!


Got my fast respond via twitter when I changed my flight date. Super service and keep the good work!!!!

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