Airline apps and customers. How to turn one night stands into meaningful relationships?

The developments of technology engages the evolution of new channels through which companies are communicating with their customers. The use of a channel can not only affect the revenues and cost structure of a company but also drive customer engagement (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

One of these channels is mobile devices. The growing importance and the role of these devices in our lives are also changing the consumer behavior. By the end of 2016, 51.8% of travelers who book trips digitally are expected to book a trip through mobile, rather than desktop (Bouman, 2016). This shift to the mobile is a huge opportunity for an airline industry.

Many of the airline companies already have their own app that is meant to make the customer journey pleasant and easy. The app of the airline can lead the customer through the whole journey. At the travel day, it can provide information on the flight, give a countdown for the flight departure. To improve in-flight experience, the app can allow the customer to order food or drinks through the app or request assistance. Apps can also allow to receive live updates on checked in luggage. After the flight, the app can provide relevant discounts and offers based on customer information on the future trips (Hector, 2016). It all is related to the actual travel process.  Some travelers download the app, use it for their flight once or twice and then they delete it. The question is – how can airlines use this channel to engage with customers in between the times they actually need it?

First of all, the app has to be relevant for the customer, it has to be easy, simple and it has to solve a problem. For example, United Airlines offers Uber services via mobile app enabling travellers to use the app throughout their entire travel experience (United, 2014).

There are many other ways how an airline can make the app more relevant for the customer. Apps can improve the storytelling (Bouman, 2016). Price does not always work as the only reason to book the flight. Storytelling content gives user a reason to open the app. We talk about not only company’s content but also user generated. Predictive App integrations is another way how to keep the customer to the app (Bouman, 2016). If the travel is booked three months in advance then the app connected to personal Facebook or calendar, could send push notifications on helping to plan the trip and activities. It would work as a trip planner.  An airline app also can add value by helping more customers at the same time to plan the activities. For example, a group of friends could use the app to decide and plan the accommodation, activities, tours etc. It would create  a network effect (Bouman, 2016).
To improve the engagement with the customers through a mobile app, airline companies need to think beyond the borders. For an airline app to be relevant for the customer in between the travel process, it has to add an extra value. It has to solve a problem, inspire or in any other way be useful.


References:

Bouman J. (2016). The big missed opportunity for travel apps: consistent engagement between bookings. Retrieved October 8, 2016 from https://www.appboy.com/blog/travel-app-marketing-needs-consistent-engagement/

Hector J.F. (2016). Rethinking your mobile app is the secret to direct customer engagement. Retrieved October 8, 2016 from http://www.theappbusiness.com/blog/rethinking-your-mobile-app-is-the-secret-to-direct-customer-engagement

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

Uniteed. (2014). United Airlines the first airline to offer Uber service via mobile app. Retrieved October 8, 2016 from http://newsroom.united.com/2014-08-20-United-Airlines-the-First-Airline-to-offer-Uber-Service-via-Mobile-App

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The digital voice of the customer -it gives data. Are airlines listening to it?

Often we can hear the saying – Data is the king! But is it really true? Data is just details, notifications of actions taken. It becomes information when data has a meaning. Data reveals something about the customer’s identity and profile and when organizations use this information, it becomes knowledge (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Understanding individual customers helps to build the relationship with them. CRM can analyse relevant customer data and use it in the marketing activities.

To build a wholesome customer knowledge, data has to be compiled from different sources. Customer databases are a crucial factor for company’s success. Social media channels are another source for data. People talk on social media, they complain, suggest, adore and hate. Some of these people are your customers. Not always are they aware that you are listening.

Still underestimated by some companies, social media carries a lot of data that can be used as useful information for the company. It is not anymore only about the likes and shares. Social listening can be used as a research tool. “Social listening can pinpoint particular problems in a business, discover how competitors are doing and find topics of particular interest to a target market” (Griffith, 2016). It captures mentions of your brand, competitors, topics etc. across the internet.

The airline industry is customer service orientated. People rely on airline companies to bring them from one place to another in a safe and pleasant way. Not always everything runs smooth. Often there are delays, cancellations, changes etc. This is an industry where unpredictable events has to be taken into consideration. Social Media allows airline companies to monitor what people are saying, what are they complaining about, what they want etc.

So, how can airlines benefit from social listening? A member of communication team of JetBlue – Morgan, revealed a great example on how social listening can improve services. A customer of the JetBlue once was complaining on social media that he has to pay a fee for his bike despite it is foldable and fits into his suitcase. Tweet was received in an afternoon. It turned into a conversation and on the next morning JetBlue made changes in their policy that allowed to take folding bikes that fitted into checked bags with no extra fee (JetBlue, 2016).

Another airline company – Southwest Airlines in 2014 started a 30-person “social business” department. It also includes a listening center that also works as a hub for various groups of the organization. Groups from HR, sales, IT and others often go by to see how the information collected from social listening can be applied in their departments. Once, this department ran a marketing campaign #FeesDontFly that rewarded people who were talking about about other airlines’ hidden fees (Pathak, 2015).

Social media provides airlines with a lot of data. It is crucial to listen to what customers are saying about you. Social listening is not just about the communication with the customers, the increase of their satisfaction and engagement. Is is also an important research tool. It can reveal useful information about competitors or flaws in the product, if used right.


Bibliography:

Griffith G. (2016). Get to know customers better by monitoring social media sentiment.Retrieved October 2, 2016 from http://raconteur.net/business/get-to-know-customers-better-by-monitoring-social-media-sentiment

JetBlue. (2016). A day in the life: Social Media. Retriewed October 2, 2016 from  http://blog.jetblue.com/a-day-in-the-life-social-media/

Pathak S. (2015). How Sothwest Airlines turned social media into social business. Retriewed October 2, 2016 from http://digiday.com/brands/southwest-airlines-turned-social-media-social-business/

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

Technology enables airlines to create value for customers by engaging in real time

Technology is changing the world of tourism and it plays a significant role in the airline industry. One of the benefits of technology is that it also gives the chance for the companies to differentiate themselves in the market. With the possibilities that technology offers, the companies can provide customers not only with a product or a service but also with additional value. The use of technology gives an opportunity to the companies to engage with their customers and turn them into ambassadors of their brands. It is driving the engagement, real time collaboration and co-creation (Buhalis, 2014).

The value of the product or a service to the customer is much related to the context based marketing. It engages the physical environment of the user by co-creating his experience based on the optimization of the conditions. When applied together with the SoCoMo marketing, it enables endless opportunities for the technology. SoCoMo marketing is based on social media and personalization, customer’s context and use of mobile devices (Buhalis, 2015).

Mobile devices support the inter-connectivity. People can connect and share information not only among themselves but also with the companies. Mobile services are able to offer real time service and the possibility to engage in conversations in real time (Buhalis, 2014).

A Dutch airline company KLM has a great example on how to use traveler’s context and interact with them by using social media on a mobile device in order to provide personalized experience. KLM has decided to use Facebook Messenger to help its customers to avoid the travel stress. If a customer after booking with KLM will agree to this new feature, then the company will start a chat with him. KLM will send such information as confirmation information, flight status, scheduling changes etc. It will allow the customer to interact with the airline in real-time on a single channel (Looper, 2016).

Another example on how airlines are using technology to provide customers a great experience is airline company Finavia in collaboration with Helsinki airport. It is the first airport to introduce passenger flow management. New sensor systems by Walkbase can track around 60-70% of people who visit the airport and leave their Wi-Fi turned on. It aims to provide smooth airport experience and easy transfers (Airport technology, 2014).

In the case of Fivania and Helsinki airport, the customers may even not notice the company’s effort to provide a great customer experience. The effects of this sensor system are invisible to the customers. In this case it is possible that there is no customer engagement with the company as the smooth experience seems self evident. In order to use technology to engage with the customers, it is important that its role is defined in the business and marketing strategy of the company.

The main concern that relates to the usage of the technology in the marketing, is the customer’s privacy. Companies need to take that into consideration in order not to overstep the boundaries with the customer so it doesn’t drive away the engagement.


References:

Airport technology. (2014). Helsinki airport to track passenger flows with Walkbase technology. Retrieved September 22, 2016 from http://www.airport-technology.com/news/newshelsinki-airport-to-track-passenger-flows-with-walkbase-technology-4331015

Buhalis D. (2014). Professor Dimitrios Buhalis on critical Technology and Marketing developments – eTourism futures. [Video post]. Retrieved September 22, 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mrha2nS76Hc

Buhalis, D., & Foerste, M. (2015). SoCoMo marketing for travel and tourism: Empowering co-creation of value. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 4(3), 151-161.

Looper C. (2016). KLM using Facebook Messenger as social portal for boarding passes, customer service. Retrieved September 22, 2016 from  http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/facebook-messenger-klm/

 

CRM challenges and opportunities – customer satisfaction as an indicator for company’s success.

For a long time Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has not been valued enough. Due to the rapid development of the technology, changes in the consumer behavior and competitive market, companies now use CRM as a tool not only to increase the amount of satisfied customers and their level of loyalty but also to differentiate themselves in the market. The use of CRM among companies has increased from 50% 10 years ago to 82.9% nowadays (Felipe-Barkin, 2014). Companies realize the benefits that can be gained from CRM. It should be in the company’s strategy. ‘Companies are most successful when they recognize that CRM is not so much a destination as a journey’ (Felipe-Barkin, 2014).

An airline industry is a highly competitive market. Nowadays, the product and the price are not the only factors that determines the company’s success (Hanke, 2015). The amount of satisfied customers also depends on the customer service provided. Customer service and customer satisfaction are closely related. Customer satisfaction with the product or service  can lead not only to customer loyalty and increase in recommendations but it also can have a positive effect on return of investments (ROI).

A research performed in Sweden proved that customer satisfaction has a significant impact on ROI. Research involved 21 Swedish organization and more than 15’500 interviewees. It measured the customer satisfaction, likeliness of recommendation or repeat purchases. In the results it could be seen that 1 per cent increase in the customer satisfaction can lead to an improvement of ROI by 2.37 per cent, whereas 1 per cent decrease can lead to negative development of ROI with 5 per cent (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

To increase satisfied customers, companies are bringing CRM to a whole new level. Due to developments in the market and the customer being in charge, companies are changing the way they focus on customers. Many companies adapt the strategy of customer intimacy. It is not the whole market wishes that are in the center of attention but the individual wishes of the customers (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

A great example is Virgin America airline company. It differentiates itself from competitors with great customer experience and culture that is not only friendly but also fun (McCallion, 2013). They have introduced a very clever tech powered solution to connect its employees with customers in order to deliver an incredible customer service in the terminal and in the air. They are using a new chatter platform from Salesforce.com. This solutions shows how CRM is evolving from a traditional approach into real-time conversation (Salesforce, n.d.).

The new developments and changes in the market challenge companies and their CRM. It is not only a challenge but an opportunity at the same time, depends on how company uses it.

References

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

Felipe-Barkin E. (2014). Maximize the ROI of your CRM solution: Learn how to get the most for the least.  Customer Relationship management, November, p.42-45

Hanke, M. (2015). Airline ECommerce: Log On. Take Off. Routledge.

McCallion J. (2013). Saleforce unveils company communities. Retriewed September 18, 2016 from http://www.cloudpro.co.uk/saas/5645/salesforce-unveils-company-communities

Salesforce. (n.d.). Virgin America. Retriewed September 18, 2016 from http://www.salesforce.com/customers/stories/virgin-america.jsp