From the Editor
We all know that keeping airfares low is important. But there’s something else that is even more critical to the success of an airline today - the way they make their customers feel. Studies show that passengers are less likely to fly again on an airline after a dissatisfying experience. They’d rather try a rival.
Brand loyalty is key to long-term competitiveness and profitability, and building it is becoming an art. It’s no longer enough (if it ever was) to simply offer frequent flyer miles. Modern customers want to feel heard and empowered – and excited about their flight experience. Let’s take a look at how you can tweak your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy to create this effect, and generate a bit of extra cash flow at the same time. Many of the suggestions here double as ancillary revenue opportunities.
Ready for Robots?
A number of airports are introducing robots to bolster their customer service. Geneva Airport have been testing a luggage bot called Leo to make the baggage check-in process easier for passengers. At Japan’s Haneda Airport you can seek assistance from a bilingual humanoid robot through the month of December. And KLM are currently trialling their own guide robot called Spencer at Schiphol. These are just a few of the cutting-edge projects currently underway.
Robotic technology is expected to make the travel experience smoother and easier as it becomes more advanced and widespread. There’s scope for social media integration here too and lots of other interactive possibilities … more about that later!
10 Better Ideas for CRM
1. Boost biometrics
You don’t need to be told that this is one of the most exciting fields in the aviation industry right now. Advances in biometrics are opening up all kinds of possibilities for travellers, including self bag drops that use facial recognition (cue Air New Zealand), long-use baggage tags, increasingly automated gates and much more. Keep your eye on biometrics to see how they can make your customers’ travel experience more seamless.
2. Shift realities
The Virtual Reality (VR) market is booming, and airlines need to be on the hunt for the best ways to integrate the tech in their cabins. Qantas were quick on the mark with their trial run of immersive VR headsets for first class passengers last year, and many other airlines are considering making them a feature of their (high-end initially, anyway) entertainment systems. There is also scope to use them to demonstrate the experience of business class or above, to increase upgrades.
3. Embrace Artificial Intelligence
Formerly the stuff of Sci-fi, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming embedded in business practices around the globe. Offering airlines the opportunity for more personalised service, as well as predictive abilities, AI is a forward-looking addition to their marketing and CRM repertoire. Singapore Airlines are harnessing AI to bolster their marketing intelligence. KLM have recently added an AI system to help with responses to questions asked on their social media channels. And of course, the virtual assistants of airlines like Alaska utilise AI to assist customers and answer their questions.
4. Leverage data analytics
Interlinked with No.3, data science is a buzzy term these days. Though a field still in its infancy, aggressively analysing data has the power to revolutionise customer relations. The more you can get to know your passengers and their preferences, the better you can meet their needs. As one simple example, you could use historical data on your frequent flyers to stock their seats with their preferred snacks and entertainment before they board. This sort of thing is a surefire way to increase levels of customer satisfaction.
5. Do more with mobile apps
Mobile devices have the potential to bolster customer satisfaction levels; apps can be used to keep your passengers up-to-date on basic details like flight times, as well as traffic conditions on their route to the airport, and what the best time to leave might be. They could also be used to present departure gate dining options to customers so that they can pre-order and collect their food or drinks once they’ve cleared security. Add a layer of augmented reality (think Emirates’ interactive amenity kits) and the options really are limitless.
6. Offer gourmet meals
Airline meals were once a thing of beauty, but are now barely more than a distraction – at least for most economy class passengers anyway. Many big names are busy refining their business and first class menus, but the economy class menu can be enhanced too. You could add gourmet meals as pay-extra options when booking; you’d be surprised by just how popular this can be.
7. Consider quiet zones
More and more airlines are designating sections of their aircraft as child-free zones to provide a peaceful environment for travellers who would prefer not to sit near very young flyers. Scoot, Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia X and IndiGo have all introduced the policy to favourable response from many of their customers.
8. Get serious on social media
Social media may be redefining customer relations, but many airlines are not yet fully onboard with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. These are not just spaces for complaint management and promotions; there is great scope for strategic seat selection arrangements like those offered by KLM’s “Meet and Seat” in-air networking service, as well as competitions and other brand building opportunities. Flyers are online – airlines need to find ways to better engage with them there.
9. Tap into in-flight systems
Many airlines are looking at ways to harness the potential of in-flight systems more effectively. For example, customers could be shown the expected arrival time at their end destination (not just the airport), updated with traffic conditions, on the moving map. They could even book a taxi or Uber while onboard, if the right partnerships are forged. Why not add a tour to the mix? Snack orders and real-time customer satisfaction surveys are increasingly popular possibilities, too.
10. Get creative with those air miles
What unique things can your customers do with their air miles? Airlines like United are expanding their range of redemption options with pop-up shows at airports and discounts on in-flight wifi. Other ideas being bandied about include allowing passengers to redeem miles at selected restaurants and hotels or other travel partners. Customers are demanding that their carriers think out of the old box when it comes to loyalty rewards.
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