KLM’s bot play: Automating Social Media

Welcome to the airline chat bot future. KLM will now handle some of the 30,000 weekly conversations it has on social media channels through fully automated bots. The company hopes that the artificial intelligence-driven bot service, powered by DigitalGenius, will continue to answer the easy or common questions from customers, freeing its 250+ social media staff to handle more complex queries in a more timely manner. The automated AI solution is available via Twitter, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

For the past 18 months KLM’s social media team used the DigitalGenius platform to power suggested answers for queries. Those suggested replies were still managed or tweaked by a human before being sent along to the customer. Until now, the agents had to decide if the proposed answer suited the question, adjust the answer if necessary and send it to the appropriate social media channel. With the high volume of customer questions that the AI system has handled, KLM is now able to automate the answers to the most common questions on any subject without the interference of a human service agent.

“By using artificial intelligence, KLM makes conversations with our customers even more timely, correct, and personal. This is what characterises KLM,” said Pieter Groeneveld, Senior Vice President Digital Air France-KLM. “Heavy snowfall in the Netherlands last week caused a significant increase of the number of questions on social media. Passengers obviously expect a timely answer. With the use of AI we support our service agents with technology and should be able to answer many more questions in a shorter period of time. This is exactly what the customer needs.”

Rapid Advances

Just three months ago Carolijn Hauwert, Social Media Hub Manager for KLM, noted the limitations AI-powered bots present for the company.

We dot not believe that bots are everything. They do not show warmth. They do not understand sarcasm. We use bots for issuing boarding passes.

To that end it is unlikely that the 250 members of the company’s social media staff need to worry about losing their roles quite yet. But it is also clear that KLM will continue to press the technology forward on many fronts. The company also uses AI-based bots for other functions, including the new packing advisor integrated into the Google Home platform.

“Once again, KLM has achieved an industry-first – the ability to provide hybrid “Human+AI” conversations to support their customers,” said Mikhail Naumov, Co-founder & President DigitalGenius. “They are a stellar example of a company that uses technology to unlock human time and potential – all in service of their respected brand and their customers.”

Ultimately the success of these efforts will be measured by two factors: Speed to resolution and accuracy of resolution. Replying quickly can be managed through either human or automated means. Engaging in a way that understands and processes the nuance of a conversation is much harder, as Hauwert notes. Indeed, the twittersphere is littered with the failed efforts of airlines to be cute or smart in places where the correct move would be to not engage at all. It is unclear that the AI-powered bots will know the difference, but we should find out soon enough.

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Seth Miller has over a decade of experience covering the airline industry. With a strong focus on passenger experience, Seth also has deep knowledge of inflight connectivity and loyalty programs. He is widely respected as an unbiased commentator on the aviation industry. He is frequently consulted on innovations in passenger experience by airlines and technology providers. You can connect with Seth on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .