Log on. Take Off. Airline passengers demanding “social” contact centers.

The world is going social and so should your contact center. Many brands fear social media, because of the negative comments that can break their reputation, but ignoring them does not make them go away. Everyday airlines are now faced with tons of comments, questions, and complaints on social media channels (Simpliflying, 2016). Whether or not their contact centers are geared for it, social media is here to stay and it is not a trend that they can easily shy away from. Passengers do not pick up the phone to be put on hold or send an email like they used to, but they will go to Facebook or Twitter instead and aspect an answer fast (ICMI, 2011). Going social gives the opportunity for airlines to turn their traditional contact centers into an improved engagement center. Qatar Airways is acknowledged for its high quality service in the air and on the ground, whilst being one of the leading airlines when it comes to operating a social contact center.

While many airlines are utilizing social media platforms for marketing purposes, they should focus on the actual “social” aspect, a two-way communication. Providing visible good quality service is positive promotion in itself. Operating social contact centers does not have to be difficult and in fact it would be the same way you manage a traditional contact center, which is a continuous cycle of listening, handling and measuring. You listen to what all your passengers have to say online from tweets to posts. You handle them through social conversations. You measure all possible data such as volumes, trending topics, brand perception, but also what the passengers preferred channels are. By prioritizing the social platforms, not only are passengers being met where they most feel comfortable, but it also allows for good quality service because of having narrowed down to the most important channels (ICMI,2011). Qatar Airways for example is very active on Facebook with over 11 million page likes, but also engages actively on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

The key to communicating with the passengers is to be proactive and actually engage by joining conversation that create a dialogue, which is easier to execute through social platforms than a traditional contact center. Online mentions can be monitored and immediately enables airlines to engage with customers. Just a simple respond or retweet shows appreciation and makes contact more personal.

screenshot-twitter-com-2016-10-09-23-58-12

(source: Twitter, 2016)

It is of importance to offer the same quality of service to anyone throughout all the active channels, by being upfront and consistent, so that it creates recognizable service standards (ICMI, 2011) (Griffith, 2015). Where other airlines try to use humor, Qatar Airways shows that to be successful on social media it is not needed to be creative in that sense, as long as you deliver on consistency. On their Facebook posts they usually receive tons of likes and shares, as well as bunch of comments, which they attempt to respond to all in the same manner.

screenshot-www-facebook-com-2016-10-09-23-18-07

(source: Facebook, 2016)

The quality of the service can be measured through two indicators: the response rate and the quality (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). The opportunity with social media is the ability to have near real time responses, which is a way of showing the passengers acknowledgement. Obviously, when having to deal with time zones and an abundance of comments like Qatar Airways, this is not always achievable. That can be made up with the quality of the service itself. The level of quality can be measured through critical points such as “Are the passengers needs being interpreted correctly?”; “Are passengers not being frustrated or angry?” (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

It is often thought that staff members need to be social media gurus, but this is not the case. What is important that staff are knowledgeable about the airline, that is what provides good service. Social media has allowed the passengers to voice themselves better and are eager to engage. They are simply demanding the same of airlines by incorporating social contact centers.

References

ICMI. (2011, June 14). Facebook-to-Case-to-Close: “Going Social” in your Customer Service Strategy [Video file]. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlWx3W34wLQ

Griffith, G. (2015, September 18). Making social media a friend – not enemy. Retrieved October 8, 2016, from Raconteur: http://raconteur.net/business/making-social-media-a-friend-not-enemy

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. United Kingdom: Pearon Education Limited.

Simpliflying (2016). Airline Social Media Outlook 2017. (n.p.) 

 

 

 

 

 

Cross- and upselling to enhance the flight passenger experience

Cross- and upselling usually terms that have a negative connotation to it. They are thought of annoying selling strategies that consists of selling something more expensive to the customer to increase revenues, but they don’t have to be annoying. In fact, these strategies can be used to enhance the customer experience for flight passengers. Through cross-selling and upselling the trip can be of more value to the customer by making their whole trip coherent and most of all seamless. It is about knowing how and when to apply these strategies and to whom, for example offering car rental to that family that will spend two weeks in France or a comfort seat to that business traveler that has a long flight ahead. Cross- and upselling should be looked at as ways to offer personalized offers at all the stages of the travel process. To achieve this it is essential to assess the big data that is available and select what to include.

By applying cross-sell analysis it helps to determine the customers with the highest probability to penetrate cross-and upselling. This model includes the variables relating to the customer profile, relationship client-supplier and product history, of which all combinations are being calculated e.g. passenger A from city x, is y many years old, has booked multiple flights to city z, with product a, for this reason the probability is n for them to purchase product category m. Even though, it is a fairly thorough analysis to use because of the numerous business rules that are taken into consideration, airlines should still be careful with their interpretation of the data, as the outcomes can produce an over- or underestimation of the probabilities (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

The calculations of cross-sell probabilities alone does not seem to be enough and targeting could be more specific. For example by also segmenting the type of travelers into business traveler, leisure traveler, families and so on. This allows in-depth analysis on these segments separately. Not only would it uncover the customers with a higher value to your airline, but also would help to get to know these certain type of customers throughout their entire end-to-end journey experience and the most significant touchpoints by connecting data across all channels (Dent, 2013). Databases have grown over the years that we now have access to demographics, psychographics, transactional, behavioural and many more data. By applying connected data analysis of all the characteristic data, it helps to understand the passenger experience from beginning to end, therefore it would allow an airline to cross- and upsell the correct products at the right time to the designated passengers (Matthews, 2016). Qantas airlines is one of the pioneers when it comes to cross-selling. It uses these types of data mining techniques to optimize and personalize its content e.g. it attempts to cross-sell by sending out emails with offers that differ per segment (Reddy, 2015).

Datamining contributes to identifying segments, probabilities and patterns, which creates an overall clear view of the passenger experience. This allows airlines to cross- and upsell their way to profits, because of knowing when and how to be of importance to their passenger that would make their journey personal and seamless.

References 

Dent, J. (n.d.). Customer Journey Mapping: A Walk In Customers’ Shoes. Ascend Contributor.

Matthews, D. (2016, September 1). How connected data is targeting consumers. Retrieved October 1, 2016, from Raconteur: http://raconteur.net/business/how-connected-data-is-targeting-consumers

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. United Kingdom: Pearon Education Limited.

Reddy, T. (2015, June 16). 5 Ways That Qantas is Using Data to Delight Customers & Build Loyalty. Retrieved october 9, 2016, from Umbel: https://www.umbel.com/blog/big-data/5-ways-qantas-using-data-delight-customers-build-loyalty/

 

How to design an airline brand experience for passengers

6132120643_9ee9c70bdd_zToday’s globalized environment has changed the airline industry and has turned air travel in a commodity, where airlines are forced to compete with each other in price because of offering a similar product. Customer engagement, however, is activated through experiences that connect on an emotional level. Designing a branded customer experience, is what differentiates a brand from others, by creating a experiences that are iconic to the brand that add value to the customer proposition, therefore involvement of the customers is crucial to cater to their expectations.  (Crawford-Browne, 2013).

The first key element is to establish a brand vision that are based on the core values of the airline. In other words translate what the airline stands for to make a strong brand identity. It is the customers who define brands through their perceptions based on feeling and emotions associated with their past experiences with the airline (Straker & Wrigley, 2016). The brand vision allows the firm to lay out brand promises. The brand promises are delivered through customer experience by exceeding their expectations. To design the experience it is of importance that it is consistent and coherent throughout all the communication channels from beginning to end. The customer journey should be mapped out and the most important experience points should be determined, because these are the prime interaction opportunities. When designing a blueprint of the customer experience, it is at these experience points a brand should develop brand cues and signatures that will strengthen the brand promises (Crawford-Browne, 2013).

Singapore Airline (SIA) is an airline that has a clear branded customer experience, because of the clarity and commitment to their brand vision and promises, which consists of delivering excellent world class service. The Singapore Girl is probably the most significant brand cue that has been implemented and has become the icon of SIA and it represents the hospitality and service the customers are guaranteed to receive. SIA passengers expect to see the iconic Singapore Girl boarding the aircraft. Small things such as the hot towels provided before take-off have become signatures of the customer experience, passengers associate these signatures with the airline. SIA shows that designing and carefully choreographing a branded customer experience creates a strong identity differentiating themselves from competitors (Martin Roll, 2014).

SIA is a staple of the airline industry and has set examples for many others, however, even the low cost carrier Ryanair has been successful at designing a branded experience, the so-called no frills experience. The airline is aware of its passengers’ need wanting an affordable flight with unnecessary features. They have communicated this through their simplified websites and not promising personal on board services, the standard rate for a flight just includes the flight and no extra services that would add on extra costs. Ryanair passengers do have same high expectations as SIA passengers have, which allowed the airline to focus on punctuality instead, something what the “No Frills Flyer” highly value (Serusi, 2014).

These two airlines are stark opposites of each other, but both have proven to be successful because of having a designed customer branded experience that clearly communicates their promises to the customers.

References

Crawford-Browne, S. (2013). Designing a branded customer experience. GfK, March 2013.

Martin Roll. (2014). Singapore Airlines – An excellent, iconic Asian brand. Retrieved from http://martinroll.com/resources/articles/asia/singapore-airlines-an-excellent-asian-brand/

Serusi, M. (2014, October 22). Ryanair has a Great Brand. What is the Secret to its Success? Retrieved September 24, 2016, from SimpliFlying: http://simpliflying.com/2014/ryanair-branding-success-customer-perception/

Straker, K., & Wrigley, C. (2016). Designing an emotional strategy: Strengthening digital channel engagements. Business Horizons, Volume 59, Issue 3, Pages 339-346.

 

 

Optimizing the customer’s journey end-to-end flight experience to establish a good relationship

What used to be the simple act of selling a seat on an aeroplane and functioning as a mode of transportation, bringing customers from one airport to airport, has significantly changed due to the way customers are able to access information. Nowadays airline customers expect more than just the transportation from A to B. Airlines have already tried to build relationships through frequent flyer programs, but with every airline having a FFP it is not guaranteed loyalty anymore. They should take these loyalty programs to the next level and focus on the end-to-end experience to make the journey as seamless as possible and bridge what now often is experienced as frustrating fragmented activities, because different stages are handled by different departments. With the technology and customer data collection of today, it allows airlines to get to know and engage their customers on an individual basis creating individual value propositions and customized personalized experiences to make a journey great. It is great experiences that lead to advocacy and recommendations, as well to customer retention (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

Applying Marketo’s 5 principles of marketing engagement to the end-to-end experience, airlines should think forward on looking for ways to implement one digital environment to integrate the disconnected activities. One digital environment that would be personal to each passenger based on their needs and wants, by giving the passengers several options that would customize their journey at every stage. Many airlines such as KLM and EasyJet have already incorporated a mobile app that shows live boarding updates and allow passengers to scan their boarding pass through their mobile devices. However, what would make it significantly less stressful experience, would be to incorporate live flight updates as well as on traffic and train routes the passengers will have to take from their location and possibly warn them if there are any delays and advise them to leave earlier. According to a survey by PWC (2015) 33% of travellers would like to have their luggage sent to their accommodation ahead of them. Airlines could implement the option of a luggage pick up and drop off service alongside the ticket.

Ways to make the in-flight experiences more seamless could be by connecting the flight passengers with the airline crew through an instant messenger giving the option to pre-order food and beverages and entertainment such as magazines. Options like these could improve the engagement of frequent flyers, giving them the privilege to pay with their collected miles for the pre-ordered products. Contactless payment and customer information opens a new door to on board duty free shopping and delivery service to the hotel or home (PWC, 2015). These are just examples of possibilities, but by continuously applying the customer data to create journey innovations it would improve and exceed the end-to-end flight experience that would increase the customer satisfaction, as a result strengthen the relationship with their customers.

References

Beelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management . Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Marketo. (2015). The 5 Principles of Engagement Marketing. Retrieved from Marketo.

PWC. (2015, November 18). Creating a seamless pre-flight experience – from searching for and booking a flight to going through the departure gate. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from PWC: http://pwc.blogs.com/industry_perspectives/2015/11/creating-a-seamless-pre-flight-experience-from-searching-for-and-booking-a-flight-to-going-through-t.html

PWC. (2015, November 26). Taking off from an airport near you: the new personalised and seamless in-flight customer experience. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from PWC: http://pwc.blogs.com/industry_perspectives/2015/11/taking-off-from-an-airport-near-you-the-new-personalised-and-seamless-in-flight-customer-experience.html