The holiday season is upon us. And when that happens, the spotlight shifts to the airline industry. Recently, there has been a substantial increase in the number of travelers. Even though aviation industry has gone through its share of ups and downs, things are changing, for the better. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the airline industry customer satisfaction score has steadily increased over the past five years. Across the industry, the score is up 4.2%, climbing to a score of 75, from 72 in 2016.
Providing consistent customer engagement is difficult. More so in the case of airlines. There can be various factors influencing the passenger’s experience. Some are under the control of the company, some are not. Being a service industry, we need to acknowledge the growing passenger expectations as far as their travel experience goes.
Importance of Passenger Experience in Airlines Industry
Aviation as an industry is very competitive. The operational costs are high and one can’t cut costs without compromising the service. With global air travel increasing exponentially, there still is an element of seasonal fluctuation of demand. We are at a point where airlines are being forced to focus on offering high levels of CX. There are various websites available today for customers to compare prices, thus, making them sensitive to flight prices. With that, delivering great CX is paramount. To differentiate and stand out, it is essential that airlines do everything they can to provide the best experiences and services to meet customer demands. After all, in a service driven industry, such as aviation, passengers is the most important factor (What’s the point of an airline without passengers).
How can the airlines match passenger expectations and offer a high level of CX? They need to put the right strategy in place. Some of the ways to improve the passenger experience and in turn gaining loyal customers are mentioned in the subsequent discussion.
1. Prepare a CX Strategy
The foundation of any good strategy is a thorough SWOT analysis. This holds true for CX strategy as well. This will ensure that the airlines are well aware of their capabilities from the start. Next step is to identify organization specific CX goals.These goals will pave the path for determining the crucial areas in the passenger journey, the brand positioning and the point of differentiation can be done. With the right CX strategy in place, the top management can send out a uniform message to the employees to ensure everyone is aligned with the organizational goals. This way, the company can also plan out future investments accordingly.
2. Build Emotional Connections with Customers
Keep the passengers at the heart of your business strategy.The airlines need to look at their CX strategies through the passengers’ lens rather than just focusing on revenue growth. Build emotional bonds with the customer. When a customer is emotionally attached to a brand, the buying decision is not just based on the price.
For example, if an airline was sensitive to the needs of your aging parents and went out of their way to assist them throughout their travel experience. There is a good chance that you will prefer to travel with that airline the next time as well.
3. Empowering the Ground and Cabin Crew
The front-line employees are the most authentic source of customer insight. They are the first people passengers reach out to. Similarly, the cabin crew is the ones responsible for the in-flight experience.Enabling them with the right devices or technology to input first-hand customer information will help the airlines to create a pool of passenger data. This information can be further integrated into the historic customer data for further analysis.
In addition to that, taking a cue from Ritz Carlton (a customer service biggie), airlines can give a certain amount of money to each staff member to enable them to right or delight the experience of the customer.
4. Monitor Voice of Passenger
Have an omnichannel presence. Listen to what the passengers have to say about the customer service and experience on various platforms. Follow their voice on the web, social media, calls and other forums to understand their expectations. Determine how your organization is faring against those expectations. The company can also access the feedback about complaints of customers, and take instant actions to address their grievances and concerns. Whenever possible, try to map comments to specific passengers to personalize their future experience. Thus, decreasing customer attrition and building future relationships.
5. Using the Right Technology
There have been plenty of technological advancements recently. Airlines can also leverage the power of technology to improve the level of airline passenger experience. By successfully harnessing the analytics, companies can create reports for real-time monitoring by the supervisors to enable faster service recovery. Successful airlines are delivering a personalized passenger experience by deploying an efficient travel contact center to get insightful customer data and thus, getting an edge over the competitors. A sophisticated contact center helps the airlines to eliminate the intermediaries and directly build relationships with the customers by delivering a personalized service.
For instance, Emirates provide the so-called ‘Knowledge-driven Inflight Service’, which makes it possible for the airline crew to review previous trips customers have taken by the carrier. Thus, they know about the customer’s preferences and issues that might have occurred during their previous travels. Based on that, changes can be made to improve and provide a personalized passenger experience.
Running an airline is a complicated feat. The current trend states that airlines are no more just a mode of transport, but, an experience in itself. Today, the passenger’s journey starts way before actually boarding the flight. Thus, companies need to dedicate as much time and resources as possible to ensure customer retention. Moreover, with the advent of new technology such as artificial intelligence, companies can look forward to higher business growth and revenues.The idea is to focus first on giving passengers what they want and need, and only then they will be loyal to your brand.