Interview: Hong Kong Airlines’ CMO on the importance of the human touch for digital marketing

Phu Nguyen Event, Event News Leave a Comment

“We are dealing with a passenger, a person who has actual feelings. This is something that all marketers should not forget even as our world gets increasingly digital.”

– George Liu, Chief Marketing Officer, Hong Kong Airlines –

Following the successful Aviation Festival Asia 2018, we’re launching an eBook featuring some of the industry’s most forward-thinking digital innovators to talk about their digital innovation journey and where they think we are headed. Download our ebook here for full interviews. Below is an excerpt of our chat with George. 

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Tell us more about Hong Kong Airlines.

George: We are still a young company going into our 12th year. We are regional, but on our way to going global in terms of our flight network. We are growing fast, more than 10% year-on- year in terms of passenger volume. We started our long haul flights in 2016, to Auckland, New Zealand, and Gold Coast in Australia. We did well operationally. Last year, we decided to take it further by launching flights to Vancouver, our first North America destination, then to Los Angeles.

In the midst of such growth and transition, we are introducing our digital strategy. Almost every airline now, if not all, have their own website and mobile app, both of which we are doing well. Our app, which was launched recently, is selling more tickets, and is also helping our customers getting all sorts of services from seats selection to pre-flight meal order.

What’s the next big thing for you as the CMO?

George: This year, the big thing for us is going social. We were already on social media before, but we didn’t have a coherent social media strategy. We just fully staffed our multinational social media team. We have been doing very well in China, consistently making it into the top 3 non-Mainland Chinese airlines for our social and digital outreach. Outside of Mainland China, we are still trying to get our act together.

Besides getting these basics done, we are also launching social listening and social customer care. When passengers face certain issues or have questions, they now prefer the ubiquity and convenience of social media rather than calling the customer hotline. If we are not huge on social media, we will not know what people are talking about, what people are concerned about. Having launched both our social listening and social customer care just about a month ago, we discovered a wave of complaints! They have always been there, but we didn’t know! We now can address these real problems faced by our customers in a quicker way.

The pressure is there when we now are put to face these voices, but it does help us to mitigate a bigger potential problem that could become a PR crisis.

Besides serving as a medium that helps us respond quicker to customers, monitoring social media activities and identifying patterns did help us uncover certain systematic problems within the organisation as well. We were then able to bring in resources, together with support from the company’s highest management level, to solve these issues.

How do you do social listening effectively across various channels out there?

George:We are working with an external vendor with expertise in this area.

What processes do you think must be kept in-house, and what can be outsourced?

George: For us, it has always been a combination of…


Join us at Aviation Festival Asia 2019
Now entering its 15th year, Aviation Festival Asia 2019 (27 – 28 February, Singapore) is Asia’s largest airline leadership conference, gathering leaders from FSCs, LCCs and airports with a size of 150+ speakers, 1000+ delegates and total 2,000+ attendees. Want to join us? For sponsorship & exhibition enquiries, contact adam.ball@terrapinn.com or to explore speaking opportunities at the event, contact paul.clark@terrapinn.com.

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