Inside Southwest Airlines' Social Media ‘Listening Center'

Southwest Airlines hears from nearly 2,000 people a day on social media – some of them complaining, others offering praise and many looking for help with their travel plans.

“Social media customer service is the future and so people expect through social media wherever they are,” said Daniel Nix, a Social Customer Care Representative at Southwest Airlines.

“The great thing about our social team is that we are equipped to really help customers with every step of the travel process,” said Ashley Mainz, SWA’s Social Business Manager.

A glass-enclosed room called “The Listening Center” is the heart of the operation.

“This is where all the magic happens,” Mainz said.

Wall monitors provide real-time information including news, airline operations and a constant “waterfall” of current social media interactions.

“It actually puts a green smiley face if it’s a positive thing and it’ll put a red sad face if it’s a negative thing,” said Jennifer Tran, a Social Customer Care Representative.

One sad face post complained about a Southwest employee, the customer tweeting “I’m so upset I’m shaking."

The social team jumps on those right away.

“To go from ‘Southwest I don’t know if I can fly with you again because you’ve really messed up,’ and by the end of the conversation having them sing your praises, it’s just a really great feeling,” said Tran.

Members of the social team also work in the airline’s Network Operations Control, the blue-bathed room where dispatchers and others keep planes safely in the air.

Passengers often provide critical information about potential problems as they develop.

“So, we’re providing information from our customers to our network team. They’re also providing us information of what’s going on out in our cities and operation,” said Rob Hahn, Assistant Manager of the Social Care Team.

Now with 31 members, SWA’s social team expanded to around-the-clock coverage in January 2016.

"Our target response time on Twitter is within 15 minutes, so we’re really proud to essentially be helping customers in the moment,” said Mainz.

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