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Racing to deliver the best air travel experience

Rhoderick Van Der Wyck, Director, Global Industry Practice Lead- Travel, Transport & Logistics, BT | Nov. 15, 2016
Rhoderick Van Der Wyck, Director, Global Industry Practice Lead- Travel, Transport & Logistics, BT shares why the digital customer experience will soon become an indispensable component of air travel

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Demand for air travel is booming - passenger numbers are forecast to hit seven billion by 2034 according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 2015 passenger growth forecast, and Asia is set to record the fastest growth. Air travel is fast becoming commoditised as a result, with low cost carriers rapidly capturing market share of up to 25 per cent worldwide (PricewaterhouseCoopers' Aviation trends report, 2015). With stiff competition ahead, airlines around the world are in the race to be the best, scrambling to offer an increasing array of digital inflight services from free Wi-Fi, personal device connectivity and access, to wireless streaming of multimedia entertainment and content. However, are they really delivering what customers want?

Consumers have grown accustomed to significant improvements in their buying experiences for property, groceries, hotel accommodation, etc. Despite the many technological advances in the aviation industry, air travel has not followed this pattern and remains for many a grumble-worthy experience.

So what do customers expect?

The logistically-critical nature of air travel means that passengers demand human-to-human contact to get the best advice and assistance from someone with expert knowledge - whether that is via webchat, video, telephone or instant messaging. Like consumers everywhere, their expectations of service are escalating and they increasingly want:

  • To be known: Once they have given an organisation permission to keep their personal information, they do not expect to have to repeat it. Airlines store a significant amount of customer data, but it's frequently stored in separate databases, making it hard to prepare a single profile for each customer, and passengers end up having to go through the trouble of re-entering their personal details again and again on multiple channels.
  • To be in control: Self-service began as a cost cutting measure, but has since become the preferred default for routine transactions. The on-going challenge is how to balance self-service with good customer experience and security considerations. A key question for the aviation and other industries is: "how far should automation go?" Customers want a frictionless experience and self-service only works when it is easier than the alternatives and customers clearly understand the benefits.
  • To be informed: Alongside self-service, customers expect to receive accurate and up-to-date information on such things as flight status, baggage delivery, visas and health regulations (IATA Global Passenger Survey, 2015). When customers have more complex issues, whether before booking or checking in their luggage, they absolutely want to talk to a person who can sort the problem out there and then. And in times of disruption or crisis, the airline must have the capacity to communicate with customers and proactively send them essential information. Solutions to automatically handle natural language queries are already here.


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