By Tony Whittaker, Leader, Disruptive Technology Group, Travel & Transportation, Unisys
What does it mean for an airline to “own” the passenger experience? It means immersing the passenger within a pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight experience that truly reflects the aspirations of 21st-century travel. An airline that can grasp the attention of its customers across all stages of travel truly owns the passenger experience and can expand its sales influence, build trust, and set world-class service expectations over and above the competition.
One Passenger’s Experience: Hailey’s Story
Consider how this might look to a modern-day airline passenger – we’ll call her Hailey. Hailey decides to take a trip to Jamaica. Since she typically travels by ABC Airways, with whom she is a loyalty customer, she checks her ABC Airways customer engagement application on her smartphone.
She books a flight after reviewing the ratings shown on the app, and notes how many loyalty miles that adds to her total – she is pleased to see that she will be able to upgrade her next trip to first class, which is something to look forward to.
In the weeks before her trip, Hailey receives helpful notifications from the app about hotels, deals, events, and attractions for her stay in Jamaica. One of the ads, she is excited to see, is for a band she particularly loves. She promptly buys tickets to a concert.
On the day of her flight, Hailey is updated about a one-hour delay. This is disappointing, but she finds that it gives her time for a leisurely meal at one of her favorite restaurants in the terminal. In fact, her app gives her a coupon for the restaurant based on her purchasing history.
While waiting at the gate, Hailey wonders whether she could possibly extend her stay by a day or two. She chats online with an airline customer service representative to be clear about her flight options and how any change would be handled.
Hailey finds that the flight goes very quickly, since her app suggests a variety of interesting reading material and video entertainment options. She gets an update about the weather at her destination. She also chats with some of the other passengers via the app, one of whom recommends a great restaurant to try.
While waiting to disembark, Hailey posts her own comments and rating about the flight, giving ABC Airways five stars for excellent service.
Customer Engagement Yields Customer Loyalty
The above story shows more than ten different interactions between Hailey and ABC Airways – all of which weave rich, informative, relevant content seamlessly into the fabric of her journey. Is it any wonder that Hailey is a loyalty customer for ABC Airways? The airline anticipates her needs and wants, delivers timely offers for products and services based on her preferences, and provides a platform for interaction that is familiar and comfortable for her. With this level of customer engagement, Hailey doesn’t feel dehumanized, like a transaction to be processed. Rather, her very unique, personal humanity is affirmed.
This level of customer engagement is only possible with a thorough understanding of the customer. Fortunately, knowledge of on-board purchases, meals and wines consumed, movies watched, books purchased, flight delays, baggage concerns, and transfer flight gates does exist – and with today’s powerful analytic platforms, it is possible to collect, assimilate, and store such data to build a richer, deeper, and ultimately more lucrative understanding of the customer.
It is time for airlines to truly own the passenger experience. Airlines who do will differentiate themselves and surge ahead in the marketplace. Those who don’t will be pushed aside.
For more information on passenger loyalty solutions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.