United Airlines' United Mobile App allows customers to use their smartphones for a whole host of tasks, everything from managing their travel itineraries to buying seat upgrades. United launched its first app in 2011 and revamped and relaunched it in November 2013.
"We saw digital was going to be imperative for additional efficiencies that we needed in order to scale to the number of customers we expected and to improve customer service," Wilson says, adding that company leaders also believed that a better mobile app would help fuel revenue growth.
A team of about 90 workers, 30 from Wilson's unit and another 60 from IT, developed and built the new app. A Chicago firm that specializes in human-digital interaction conducted ethnographic research, studying how employees, consumers and travel agents move through the entire flying experience from booking to landing.
In addition to higher customer satisfaction and better efficiency for agents, Wilson says the mobile app has increased revenue, for example, by allowing customers to easily purchase seats with extra leg room. "With the mobile app, it's not intrusive. It's embedded into the experience," he says.
Wilson reports 4 million downloads of the first version and 20 million downloads of the new app in the two years it's been available. Also, he says the 4 million customers who used the first mobile app were United's most frequent travelers; the full range of United customers, even those who travel infrequently, use the new app.
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