Customer Experience Management – Must-do for airlines to rule the skies
Airlines, like most other Services industry players, have started taking cognizance to the immense significance of customer experiences and relationship management. In this game of survival, where the core offering itself has limited options for differentiation, it is the entire experience of a flyer with the airlines on-ground and in the air that creates the cutting edge above the rest. In this paper, we will explore the customer experience management (CEM) and its value in the airlines industry.
An important fact that is becoming noticeable over the last few years in any service is the customers’ willingness to choose and pay a premium for better quality of service. The same is true for Airlines as well, who are realizing that perceived value of their service for a customer has the biggest impact on their brand value, customer satisfaction and loyalty. The strategic need for CEM is further driven by the intensifying competition based on price, sky-rocketing cost of operations and the need to look at differentiation beyond the core offering.
What are the key influencers for CEM?
Technology assisted accessibility to experience-enhancers can be seen as one of the most significant influencers these days.
- Pre-travel - Travellers are getting increasingly aware and demanding about everything from best price options, ticketing process, choosing seats, check-in process and many others.
- Travel time on-ground and in the air – Airport experiences, lounge access, boarding, baggage visibility, connections handling and in-flight personalised services are all becoming more accessible and hence being demanded by travellers. Customers form a perceived “value” of Airlines services based on all of these aspects today.
- Post-travel – Loyalty rewards and customer communications post travel make a customer feel valued by the airlines and hence add to the overall experience of the customer with the airlines.
Adopting CEM for sustenance, differentiation and business excellence
A well thought out CEM strategy has now become a part of the airlines’ business and operations plan. The guiding principles of a CEM strategy must include:
- Getting to know your customer, understanding intent, needs and reactions in every interaction with the airline is important to predict and proactively design a plan for the future.
- Looking beyond loyalty program members/frequent flyers, as a large part of the business originates from non-loyalty program customers, it is essential for an airline to understand every customer: registered or unregistered, and enhance their experience at every touch point.
- Proactive and agile to adapt to behavioural changes and market dynamics
- Internal buy-in of all stakeholders with leadership sponsors can make or break a CEM strategy. Everybody from the ground staff to the CEO must imbibe the culture of CEM to make it a success.
Catalysts that make CEM implementation agile and effective
As we are aware, CEM relies heavily on understanding, predicting and executing enhanced customer experiences seamlessly across all touch points in the airlines.
Digital platforms, media and tools are at the centre of building and executing CEM. Digital media underscores that fact that customer interactions with service providers today are more social, on the move, personalised, creatively disruptive and collaborative. Deriving learnings from digital behaviour and integrating social media in the CEM plan is the catalysts for making any CEM effort effective. A lot has already been said about how social media and its innovative, creative and collaborative use across industries has led to success and growth. Shown below are just a few ways how digital platforms, tools and social media can be leveraged in a CEM strategy:
- Big data and analytics – to assimilate the learnings from data sourced from customer interactions at ticket counters, websites, call centres and social media for getting to know customers and their behaviour, preferences, intent and needs
- Social media for crowdsourcing – Airlines have increasingly begun realising the power of social media to look for ideas directly from the users. This results in better designed, almost customised offerings for customers. Social crowdsourcing is also being explored to strengthen offerings by collaborating with partners such as airports, flight catering services, on-ground transportation services, freight providers and hospitality services.
- Digital tools and platforms for airlines staff empowerment – seamlessly connected and integrated CRM systems, handheld smart devices for ground and in-flight crew are just a few ways to increase visibility among employees and airlines staff across the board. Needless to say, this empowers them to cater to the needs of their customers better.
It is amply justified that CEM is the magic potion that can invigorate the airlines industry in more ways than one. But this is not just about one time-bound CEM program. It is about adopting a CEM culture across the organisation. It is about every employee and every stakeholder recognising the need to listen, understand and manage customers across their journey with the airlines.