Silver: Customer Experience

Business Boost: United has been able to convert 4 percent of its non-members to the MileagePlus program, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue.

The 2010 merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines created not only one of the world's largest airlines, but also one of the world's biggest loyalty programs. As the two airlines went about merging their respective customer databases, executives at United saw an opportunity to explore new and creative ways to use customer data from both MileagePlus and non-members that could help it to build richer profiles of its customers that could enable the airline to deliver more personalized and relevant communications, critical day-of-travel updates, and to ultimately deliver better customer experiences.

United also sought to break new ground. The only customer database that United previously maintained was for its MileagePlus members. United decided to expand the database in order to provide more relevant and personalized communications with the millions of customers who aren't MileagePlus members and to serve their needs better.

United partnered with Acxiom Corp. to help it build richer profiles of its MileagePlus members and also non-members. In addition to identifying duplicate records to help United work with the cleanest and most accurate member information possible, Acxiom also overlays demographic and lifestyle data on top of customer records and groups them into customer types. For instance, while United tries to include basic demographic information in each member profile such as age, household income, and net worth, in some cases it relies on Acxiom to either fill in missing pieces of information or to add interest-specific elements, such as members who enjoy playing golf, says Mark Krolick, managing director of marketing and product development at United.