Airlines can create personalized customer experiences by connecting services from airports and vendors with their own services.
by Paul Wagner
The industry is ready for a digital app ecosystem that can improve the transit track.
The airline industry has made momentous advancements in recent years. The planes are top notch, and services are better than ever. Passengers on some planes can now watch their favorite TV shows and log on to Wi-Fi while reclining in an ergonomic seat.
But the industry hasn’t yet figured out how to transfer that positive experience to outside the plane. The process of air travel continues to be challenging, often frustrating and open to unexpected inconveniences for travelers. In the Age of the Consumer, this approach simply doesn’t fly.
In a lot of ways, the technology needed to improve the transit track wasn’t up to the task. But with the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile devices, ubiquitous Wi-Fi and modern business processes, airlines can now usher customers through that end-to-end travel journey in a way that improves the overall experience. They can pull together an ecosystem of service providers that can communicate with each other and with customers through new, connected channels.
Imagine this scenario: A weather event results in delayed and canceled flights. Airline staff scrambles at the gates, trying to respond to passengers and help them find alternate routes to their destination. Tensions are high, and customers are not happy.
A service agent whips out a secret weapon: a mobile tablet loaded with an application that provides real-time visibility into customers’ location and travel data. Knowing exactly where a million-miler is waiting, she walks into the rewards lounge and calmly asks to speak with “Mr. Smith,” pulling his profile up on the device.
“I see you were headed to Chicago. As you may be aware, your flight has been canceled. I have an open seat on our flight to Midway boarding now at Gate A5. Can I make that change for you, and send a map to your phone to help you get to the gate? May we arrange a car to drive you to your original destination, O’Hare?”
Before a grateful Mr. Smith can even say “Thank you,” she adds, “I also sent a complimentary drink ticket to your airline app so you can relax with your favorite Chardonnay.” Sound too good to be true? I bet Mr. Smith thinks so. And I bet he continues being a valued customer of the airline.
By connecting applications, data and services from the airline, the airport, the airport vendors, IoT, sensors and a variety of sources, airlines can create this personalized and helpful mobile experience. And they know they have to. According to Atmosphere Research Group, airlines rate their mobile apps as their fifth most important customer service channel today, but they anticipate mobile becoming the most important channel by 2021.
With the rich data generated by a platform like this, service providers can learn about customers’ preferences and behavior. Aggregated data can be analyzed to drive insights and help business leaders make better decisions about inventory, operations, staffing and more.
Best of all, the industry can improve on and truly own the full experience, turning passengers into smarter, happier travelers.
PAUL WAGNER is industry general manager for travel and transportation at CSC.