Selling to YOU!

Within the field of customer engagement there are multiple sales techniques, and each customer requires an individual approach since they all have different purchasing behaviour and different needs.
For example, twenty minutes ago I was looking at plane tickets for a vacation next year. I searched for the cheapest tickets and within seconds I found a good offer. Since I travel often, I know how to purchase a plane ticket, what I am looking for and what I am willing to spend. It can be said, my type of sale is a transactional one (Peelen & Belman, 2013).
However, when someone is travelling by air for the first time, the type of sale changes. They might not know exactly how it works, have doubts as to which ticket to buy and need assistance. The purchasing situation for this case is the consultative sale: a sale where the customer’s requirements are identified and a solution is proposed (by Peelen & Beltman 2013). There is a need for consulting, and multiple airlines use this knowledge to create the perfect sale.

Thomas Cook is one of them: they offer the opportunity to chat live with one of their agents, which allows you to ask all questions you want and they will assist you the best they can. Whether you need help with your booking, a cancellation or other issues, the live chat is a very fast responsive way to get consulted (Thomas Cook, c2017).

When it comes to the consultative sale, it is beneficial that there currently is a much deeper focus within the airline industry on understanding the behaviour of customer. Educating them if needed works in the advantage of both the airline and the customer (EyeforTravel, 2013).

The challenge for airlines here is how to know what kind of sales technique to use for what kind of customer. Since it is typical that most airlines deal with more than one type of sale situation, there cannot be a focus on one sales technique only. As mentioned by Peelen & Beltman (2013), the best way for airlines to achieve an increase in sales and create the best sales experience, is to approach each sales situation individually and appropriately. The appropriate sales approach and the relationship potential will be determined by the added value airlines can bring to the sales transaction (Rackham & DeVincentis 1998).

Airline must focus on not adopting multiple sales techniques for one sale since this will lead them into the no-man’s-land, which is not profitable for both the airline and the customer (Rackham & DeVincentis (1998). In this case, the requirements, needs and wants of the customer are not met and this causes the airline to lose sales. Therefore, it is of significant importance that airlines tackle one sale at the time, find out what kind of sales technique matches the needs and wants of the customer and create the best selling experience for both parties involved. Because in the end, they are selling to YOU!

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References

EyeforTravel (2013). Personalisation + Differentiation = a smarter way of selling airline offerings. Retrieved 8 October, 2017, from https://www.eyefortravel.com/distribution-strategies/personalisation-differentiation-smarter-way-selling-airline-offerings

Peelen, E. & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. (2nd ed.). Harlow, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Rackham, N. and DeVincentis, J. (1998) Rethinking the Salesforce: Redefining selling to create and cap- ture customer value, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Thomas Cook (c2017). How do I start a Live Chat?. Retrieved 8 October, 2017, from https://support.thomascook.com/Before-You-Travel/Booking-your-Holiday/11704998/How-do-I-start-a-Live-Chat.htm

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Liking, sharing and commenting towards marketing goals

Customer data management is fundamental to customer analytics. Due to social media, customer data is not scarce anymore, it is the opposite: there is information overload nowadays because of the social platforms (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). As stated in Lucy Fisher’s article (2017), many market researchers believe social media represents a more efficient form of research than traditional surveys.

Since social media can affect the relationship between a brand and the customer, it is crucial to have a good understanding of each platform, as from each different data could be summoned. For example, people can only publish short texts of a maximum of 140 words on Twitter, while on Facebook they can post, like, share and comment whatever they want with an unlimited word count. That said, it can be stated that Twitter is less social than Facebook, which is an important conclusion when looking into using social media as customer data (Fisher, 2017).

If we stick to the platform of Facebook, various data could be found when looking into customer’s behaviour. This data is beneficial for any organization, including airlines. We can now ask ourselves the following: how can airlines use Facebook to gain knowledge about their customers?

There are multiple ways to do this, but many businesses are now choosing to invest high amounts in services that offer them human behaviour analysis of online conversations (Griffith, 2016). This means, for example, if customers identify themselves on the Facebook page of a brand community by sharing, liking or commenting, the profile data of their Facebook friends then also become accessible to the brand or organisation (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Information about who is commenting on or liking the action of that one customer can help the organization, in this case the airline, to get a more sophisticated understanding of why and how customers are talking about the brand or company (Griffith, 2016).

Airlines can use this information to, for example, create advertisement campaigns focused on sex, age, residence, interests etcetera. This way, the organization can aim their advertisements directly to the target group of their desire for a specific product. This is called a ‘sponsored ad’. With these sponsored ads, companies and organizations can come into contact with the people who will most likely be interested in their product or service (Facebook, 2017).

There are companies that use this kind of customer analytics. However, it would be very beneficial for airlines to do so as well. Airlines operate in the service industry, and keeping up with technology and new trends – such as social media – is crucial in order to provide the best service possible. By using social media to gain customer data, better marketing goals could be established. Using sponsored ads could be, for instance, a marketing goal for airlines. These kinds of marketing goals will be very beneficial for airlines since they are based on an efficient form of research that is modern, effective and would eventually lead to a significant increase in sales, which airlines LIKE!

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References

Facebook. (2017). Over Facebook-advertenties. Retrieved 29 September, 2017, from https://www.facebook.com/about/ads/

Fisher, L. (2017). Using social media to understand your customers. Retrieved 27 September, 2017, from https://www.raconteur.net/business/using-social-media-to-understand-your-customers

Griffith, G. (2016) Get to know customers better by monitoring social media sentiment. Retrieved 29 September 2017, from https://www.raconteur.net/business/get-to-know-customers-better-by-monitoring-social-media-sentiment

Peelen, E. & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. (2nd ed.). Harlow, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Image source
Ron Mader (2013), Facebook buzzwords [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/planeta/12229483403/in/photolist-jCFim8-cgZpFE-cgZqsS-pfd7yn-cgZpM1-9gYyxx-8TFKPw-4w73y5-cgZpTf-cgZprY-9Kw1n5-5GTG6Y-2Sgfop-eiRBkJ-8maR9D-rZeRr-eiRCd3-6tXitf-5GTwBN-VV7YB-5iEcGp-are6px-998J5P-8prM2U-3EQcfX-dYJnHQ-7BTXFQ-5GPpvM-68zmWP-7n9KUG-dzrqFa-8tvpnP-8x3RTg-SuRYir-aqAa3U-66qXWr-6mQXgU-gTHWaQ-ibAMaG-7UgFsL-aKzuP2-5GTBCQ-8x6SjG-SiyAUu-8TzaCG-9LjJbp-622yhY-5auQM3-87G6qd-4iWgSs , accessed 2 October 2017

Negative life events in the airline industry: the importance of customer empathy

As mentioned in Customer Relationship Management by Peelen & Beltman (2013), it is beneficial for an organisation to consider what is relevant for them to use when it comes to the thoughts, actions and feelings of the customer. They need to understand the context. The Customer empathy map, devised my Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010) and shown below, can be of great importance for this. The map promotes organizations to look through the eyes of the customer: what they hear, see, think, feel, say and do is of significant importance to gain a more complete understanding of the customer experience. The focus on the customer will increase when using this model.

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Life events can be better understood when using this map. It offers unique possibilities for organisations to show the customer that they care. When it comes to airlines, the focus should be on life events that provide opportunities for the relationship with their customer, so it can expand and increase in value (Peelen  Beltman, 2013). However, there are also life events that could affect the relationship in a negative way, such as terrorist attacks or the disappearance of airplanes.

Happenings such as 9/11 or the crashes of Malaysia Airlines can cause reactions of fear, and passengers might never want to fly again. If this negative life event has taken place, airlines and airports can provide care for their passengers. The International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) is an example of this. They support a multiphase interaction with both small groups and individuals led and supported by trained psychologists and professional peers to help them process stepwise. This has been used by major groups in the aviation industry such as airlines, airport personnel and pilot groups (Transportation Research Board, 2009).

Although it is most likely the victimized passengers will not fly by air anytime soon after the event, airlines can reduce the negative impact it will have on their name and show empathy to the customer.
Malaysia Airlines is an example of this. After the disappearance of Flight MH370, Malaysia Airlines was strongly criticised by their customers for the way they handled this. After the second disaster, Flight MH17 that was shot down, they offered refunds to passengers who were too scared to fly with them any longer and accepted all requests for cancellations or the postponing of tickets even though they were non-refundable. This reaction was appreciated by their travellers (The Guardian, 2014) who had strong feelings because of what they heard and saw about the disasters. This is according to the model of Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010) since Malaysia Airlines listened to the worries and concerns of their customers and acted in accordance.

The reaction of the customer can make or break an airline in the case of a negative life event and it is therefore crucial the airline considers the feelings, thoughts and behaviours of their customers. By seeing through their eyes, the airline can take the right measurements in order to maintain a positive relationship with their customers.

References

Osterwalder, A. and Pigneur, Y. (2010) Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Peelen, E. & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. (2nd ed.). Harlow, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

The guardian. (2014). Is There a Future for Malaysia Airlines. Retrieved 22 September, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/29/is-there-a-future-for-malaysia-airlines

Transportation research board. (2009). Helping Airport and Air Carrier Employees Cope with Traumatic Events. (22 ed.). Washington DC: Transportation Research Board.

Giving, receiving and giving again by KLM

Organizations that implement customer engagement management strive to build a relationship with their customers that lasts a lifetime. It has been proven by Fornell and colleagues (2006) that organizations in the United States who invest in customer satisfaction will get higher market values and lower risk ratings. This means it is a high worth, low risk investment and beneficial for every organization.

KLM sets the bar high when it comes to engaging customers and customization. For a few years now I have a personal KLM-account, and a couple of weeks ago I received an email from KLM announcing their famous ‘KLM World Deal Weeks’, which were coming soon. These are special weeks where flights to long-haul destinations are offered with a large discount, and very beneficial if you love to travel. In the email they asked me what I would like to do in my next vacation. When I clicked the link, I was directed to their website where I could choose between multiple images that described an activity or theme. I could choose as many options as I wanted, from ‘active and outdoor’ to ‘diving and snorkeling’, from ‘romance’ to ‘shopping’ and from ‘luxury and wellness’ to ‘family trip’. I could save my preference and in two days I would receive the best offers that matched my wishes, before everyone else could see them (KLM, 2017). The offers really matched my preferences, which made me feel special. When the KLM World Deal Weeks begun I started looking at the offers and data. The fact that they gave me personalized offers made me want to have a look at the offers and maybe even book a trip. This is according to the theory of Mauss (1925) as cited in Peelen (1989): ‘something must be received for which something is given in return which then creates the obligation to give something again’. I created a KLM-Account since this was very beneficial according to their website, and in return I received personalized offers before other people could get a hold of them. Because of this positive gift, I felt obligated to look at the offer and maybe even book, because KLM took the effort to send me the special information. This ‘calculated return’ could potentially be the beginning of a positive cycle, giving a positive gift and receiving a positive gift in return (Peelen, 1989).

The experience above shows how KLM engages their customers in a positive and well thought-out way. Other airlines should implement this as well, since it is not only beneficial for their market values but also for their reputation, and most important of all; for the relationship with their customers.

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References

Fornell, C., Mithas, S., Morgeson III, F.V. and Krishnan, M.S. (2006) Customer satisfaction and stock prices: high returns, low risk, Journal of Marketing, 70(1)

KLM, (2017) KLM_Highlights@klm-mail.com. Het begint met een W…. 5th September 2017

Peelen, E. (1989) Relaties tussen consument en aanbieder, een basis voor herhalingsaankopen, Alblasserdam: Haveka