Every frequent traveler has definitely felt frustrated due to flight delays. Some of airline delays happen due to external factors, such as extreme weather conditions or security issues, sometimes crew max out their hours because of a previous delay or scheduling issues. Whatever the reason is, it is crucial for the airlines to take immediate actions to ensure that passengers are well-informed and taken care of personally in order to keep them as satisfied as possible and reduce the chances of losing loyal customers.
In the research, examining critical service break-downs, which was conducted in four different airport in Sweden back in 1989, it was found that delays are the most frequently occurred flight disruptions (Bejou, Edvardsson, & Pakowski, 1996). However, even three-fourths of interviewed passengers, who faced a delay, said that they were passive and did not take any actions to resolve the problems or did not even expect the airlines to do something to lessen the discomfort. Even with low customers’ expectations, Swedish airports were able to deal with critical situations in satisfactory manners as even 80% of interviewees stated that their relation with airlines and airports did not change, 4% strengthened relationship and the remaining, relatively low 16% of the cases resulted in a weakened or broken relationship. (Bejou, Edvardsson, & Pakowski, 1996)
But how can you know what the customer expects from you in case of a delay and what is satisfactory enough in order to maintain the relationship? Cognizant, a leader in travel and hospitality consulting, created a three-phased approach to a personalized disruption-handling, which, if implemented successfully, could help airlines to understand each customer’s behavior and needs in the event of delay.
Phase 1: Defining Code Halos. A code halo is all data that an airline has collected from every previous interaction with its customers. This would include age, gender, nationality and ethnicity, travel purpose, activity on social networking, association with airline, smart device usage, previous behavior during flight delay or any other disruption, etc.
Phase 2: Developing Personas. By using previously gathered data, airlines can develop customer personas, which are divided to two clusters – behavior based and reaction-based. Behavior based cluster defines how a customer acts during a delay, whether he seeks for a refund, explanation, compensation, apology or is pleased with anything. Whereas reaction-based cluster is based on post-service-recovery reactions of customers and they could be applauders, neutrals or skeptics. In order to develop accurate personas, these to clusters should be combined and mixed together.
Phase 3: Developing Insights & Executing Operational Rollout. After creating personas that clarify how and where customers want to be engaged during delays, airlines are ready to provide customers with personalized treatment, keeping in mind that customer data has to be constantly updated and that behavior is highly dependent on situations, therefore each treatment will most probably have its own variations.
LATAM Airlines Brazil, in cooperation with Amadeus, already implemented a mobile solution with a similar approach, which reduces customers’ frustration during flight disruptions, including delays. They developed the Amadeus Personal Disruption Companion, which allows passengers to get all information about the delay in one single tap on a smart device. (Amadeus, Amadeus, 2014) It is done by analyzing who is the traveler, when and where he is travelling and what his preferences are based on existing data. This solution offers re-accommodation options, allows to re-book the trip, transfer the luggage and manages all disruption process from beginning to end. (Amadeus, Amadeus, 2014) Not only does this innovation help to manage travelers personally and in real-time, but it also improves loyalty, delivers a brand experience and possibly lowers airline’s costs related to disruptions.
Even though personalized customer engagement in airlines industry might still seem to be hardly achievable, there are more and more different approaches being developed by airlines and airports, which will help them to drive customer satisfaction, increase brand loyalty and better manage disruption costs.
Amadeus. (2014, 11 25). Amadeus. Retrieved from Amadeus unveils industry-first solution allowing airlines to better manage delayed and cancelled flights: http://www.amadeus.com/web/amadeus/en_US-US/Amadeus-Home/News-and-events/News/112514_Amadeus-unveils-industry-first-solution-allowing-airlines/1259071352352-Page-AMAD_DetailPpal?assetid=1319612670386&assettype=PressRelease_C
Amadeus. (2014, December 4). Amadeus. Retrieved from Industry-first solution helps airlines better manage delayed and canceled flights: http://www.amadeus.com/nablog/2014/12/industry-first-solution-helps-airlines-better-manage-delayed-cancelled-flights/airlines
Bardhan, S., Ghosh, S., & Gupta, V. (2015). How Airlines Can Deliver a Personalized Customer Experience During Operational Disruptions.
Bejou, D., Edvardsson, B., & Pakowski, J. P. (1996). A Critical Incident Approach to Examining the Effects of Service Failures on Customer Relationships: The Case of Swedish and U.S. Airlines.
Phocuswright. (2014, 11 12). Amadeus – 2014 Finalist – Established Category – Phocuwright’s Travel Innovation Summit. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=GZH0f3rzMqk