Today's customers expect personalized interactions, making it essential for companies to collect data, analyze it, and then use the insights to engage with customers on a one-to-one basis. Forward-thinking organizations are leveraging their customer data to stick out from among their competitors by delivering a truly personalized experience for their customers.
Airlines have been especially challenged with making sure they're delivering the best possible experience to their passengers. Especially with the advent of low-cost carriers, passengers have a bigger choice when they travel, allowing them to purchase the trip that best fits their needs.
But while airlines have been collecting large amounts of customer data, interactions with customers tend to be dispersed among different departments, ranging from the transaction when the customer buys a ticket online to the service he gets on the plane. Further, extracting insights from customer data isn't enough. These need to be shared with frontline employees to better personalize interactions with customers.
This was a reality for British Airways, and the company's management wanted to find a way to provide a seamless experience throughout the customer journey, from the first interaction to the last, and even across multiple trips. Mike Croucher, head of IT architecture and delivery at British Airways, says this strategy required joining the data across the different touchpoints that a customer comes in contact with while doing business with the airline. "The key is to move from processing a passenger, as we've done in the past, to servicing them and making it a personalized experience," Croucher explains.
The second step was to make this information available to frontline employees, allowing them to have a personalized dialogue with customers. However, the company faced a major hurdle since the most important part of the customer journey happens on board a plane, when staff members have limited access to customer data, including information about both previous flights and future trips that have already been booked. "We needed to give our cabin crew equal access to customer information as the people on the ground," Croucher says. This includes any problems that a customer encountered previously as well as the resolution that the airline offered, for example offering an upgrade to a customer after his in-flight entertainment system didn't work.
In order to put information in the hands of its cabin crew, British Airways decided to invest in iPads for its entire airborne staff. Croucher explains that cabin crew can download up-to-the-minute information just before the plane takes off, allowing flight attendants to have access to information about their passengers up until they boarded the flight. Croucher notes that this system is connecting cabin crew with the passengers, allowing them to be privy to information that was previously not accessible to them.
This initiative is helping the cabin crew be better informed about the passengers on a particular flight and allow for better follow-ups, for example if a passenger encountered a problem on a previous flight, like a misplaced luggage. Further, flight attendants can input additional customer information directly on their iPads, allowing for a 360-degree view of customers. This is leading to a better experience for travelers who are given more personalized service.
Croucher notes that since the flight attendant who helped a passenger with a problem is unlikely to be on their same flight again, recording the information is of essence so that frontline employees will be aware of issues a particular customer has had and make sure they close the loop. "In the past every journey was considered independent from others, but now we're bringing them together," Croucher notes.
The airline is also leveraging mobile phone popularity to improve customer service. Croucher explains that while mobile applications for booking are already in existence, customers are asking for more interactions over mobile, for example being informed when a flight is delayed.