KLM HEADQUARTERS - AMSTERDAMSeptember 24, 2015
Last week a couple of UK tech and travel journalists (myself included) were invited to Amsterdam by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to get unprecedented access to their headquarters at Schiphol Airport, for an exclusive insight into what goes on behind the scenes. As a closet aviation geek, it was truly fascinating to discover how the world's longest operating airline is run. Fresh off our inbound KLM flights, we kicked off out time in 'the Dam' with a tour of the Social Media Hub.
We headed straight to the boardroom at the top of the KLM HQ tower which has the most incredible view across Schiphol Airport and beyond. The KLM Social Media Hub managers, Gert Wim Ter Haar and Robertjan Groeneveld, gave us the low-down on KLM's social media strategy and their plans for the future.
In terms of the commercial aviation industry, KLM were early adaptors of social media. They rolled out their global Facebook and Twitter social media service following the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruptions in Iceland, to allow people to share their stories on the incident.
Since 2010, KLM has expanded its social media presence to other platforms such as Instagram and WeChat and are currently looking at instant messaging platforms such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger - they essentially go where their customers go. KLM even developed a payment solution via social media that allows customers to buy or amend tickets and be securely redirected straight to a checkout page. Annually, €25 million of sales are driven through their social media channels alone, testament to the fact that it pays to have a social media presence.
Next it was on to the Social Media Hub offices where the magic really happens. There are around 150 staff who keep KLM's social media operating 24 hours a day, in 14 different languages. Every single message that KLM receives via its social media channels gets engaged with using the help of social media tools such as Radian6. Responding to the 70,000 questions per week that they receive via their global Facebook and Twitter channels is a carefully orchestrated task.
It's not hard to see why KLM is at the forefront with its online operation. In an age where everyone is on social media they are utilising online platforms to provide customers with a convenient, no-nonsense customer service experience. In the future KLM is aiming to get response times down to just 30 minutes and utilise other new and emerging social media platforms.
The bustling office where meteorology and delays are carefully monitored looks like something from NASA. The operations department oversees the running of the airline as a whole.
Finally we rounded the day off at the Wings restaurant which is located in the former control tower for some well deserved wine and Heineken.
I'd like to say a massive thank you to KLM for allowing me to share this rare behind the scenes insight with Wayfarer readers. Following the tour of the KLM headquarters we headed into central Amsterdam (which happens to be one of my favourite cities) to enjoy a bit of the culture...but more on that later!