Transavia, the Airline Pioneering Whatsapp Use

Transavia whatsapp line

Instant messaging is becoming part of most people's lives.

This fact has not gone unnoticed at Transavia, the Air France/KLM low cost subsidiary, that this year launched its own Whatsapp-based customer service channel.

I got in touch with Rob Abspoel, the person that has overseen the roll out of this service at Transavia, in order to learn more about how did it go.

"The project started out of the realization that we really needed to be where our customers are. For our customer base, that meant Whatsapp" he explains.

Similarly to what is happening in daily life, Whatsapp is replacing phone calls as a communications channel.

Transavia uses Whatsapp as a way to replace more costly customer calls - but they have found other uses too...! Mr.Abspoel told me how an internal Whatsapp channel also helps the social media team manage the airline's Instagram account, by gathering pictures taken by staff all over Transavia's network.

The next natural step would be to be able to handle bookings through Whatsapp. In fact, it is already partly possible, but still far from ideal, because it is still not possible to complete the transaction on Whatsapp. Customers are sent a link to an airline website where they can complete the booking.

But this is going to be fixed and rather soon, maybe as soon as early this coming year. Passengers will then be able to complete a booking via Whatsapp, not unlike KLM passengers can now do via Facebook Messenger.

KLM, Transavia's parent company, actually experimented with Whatsapp for customer service, but it finally opted for FB messenger instead.  

It turns out that KLM wanted to focus on just one instant messaging channel and Facebook Messenger seem to fulfill this purpose better. For Transavia, instead, Whatsapp is working really well, as the instant messaging app is really popular in the European markets where it operates. This December it has sometimes managed some 14,000 messages per week. During the peak season the number can more than double to around 30,000 messages per week.

As of now the main obstacle for a more widespread use of Whatsapp is that the system still requires some human intervention, as queries are answered by real people.  This is also likely to change soon. 

There is a lot going on in the field of customer service chatbots. Airlines such as KLM and Aeromexico have already launched their own automated customer service bots.

Mr.Abspoel estimates that automating around a third of the requests Transavia gets would be relatively easy. Routine, repetitive questions that follow always the same pattern, as well as communications about disruption and incidences are within this group.

Expect a lot more of this in 2017!