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Social media is an increasingly important aspect of each major airline’s customer service strategy. There are those that perform well and respond quickly on social media, and there are others that travelers know to avoid. But consumers are largely unaware of how airlines handle things behind the scenes — we’re used to opening our Twitter app, typing a message and sending a tweet without knowing how the actual human on the other end handles the response. But with a new video from a local NBC news affiliate in Dallas, we’re granted access inside Southwest Airlines’ social media “Listening Center.”

The Listening Center hears from nearly 2,000 people a day across social media platforms — everything from passengers complaining about delayed flights to individuals praising the carrier for its friendly customer service. Inside the room, which looks kind of similar to something you might see in a movie, there are monitors that display real-time news and flight information, as well as a “waterfall” of current social media interactions.

In order to sort through the mass amounts of tweets that come through the carrier’s Twitter handle, a green smiley face or red sad face will populate next to the tweet if it’s a positive or negative reaction, respectively. The 31 members of the social team work on addressing the negative reactions first and at all hours of the day, as the team expanded to around-the-clock coverage in January. The team’s target response time is 15 minutes on Twitter, so there isn’t a lot of time to spare.


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