When most travel providers hear the word integration, they really hear the word ‘technology.’ Or maybe the word ‘systems.’ What this reveals is that integration’s primary objective is typically operational efficiency. Nothing wrong with that. But left by the roadside is an equally, if not more important, goal of integration: a seamless customer experience that begins digitally and extends to call centers and even face-to-face interactions on the ground. Instead of thinking about integrating systems and technology, think about using highly personalized customer intelligence to integrate all traveler touch points – online and off.
Conceptually, this is not a difficult or far-fetched scenario. In fact, it’s perfectly reasonable given today’s reliance on information technology for travelers to expect a seamless experience. They know that highly personalized customer databases create a rich profile of their travel lives. So why aren’t providers making more use of it?
Actually, some are. The introduction of Big Data-driven decision engines takes customer intelligence and makes it highly actionable across the organization in ways that directly enhance the travel experience. In a nutshell, it gives call center representatives, ticket counter and gate agents, even in-flight personnel the ability to instantly ‘know’ a customer and, more importantly, act on that knowledge.
For example, John Mott is a New England-based business traveler who takes a 7:15 flight every Monday morning to Dallas. He typically flies business class, doesn’t check a bag and usually returns late Wednesday. But one Sunday evening he decides at the last minute to go to his son’s basketball game on Monday afternoon and calls the airline to switch his flight to Tuesday morning. The call center rep accesses his travel profile and can tell at-a-glance that he is a loyal and frequent customer. Moreover, the database’s decision engine takes this into account and automatically provides the representative with a rules-driven recommendation. The next thing Mr. Mott hears is the representative saying: “Mr. Mott, because you are such a loyal, weekly customer on our Dallas flight, I’m going to waive the re-ticketing surcharge. So it won’t cost you anything to change your itinerary.” This makes him very happy. He is also somewhat amazed. While he’s been flying the airline for years, it’s the first time that a representative hasn’t treated him like a total stranger and actually acknowledged his loyalty.
Not only does the decision engine know what to recommend, it also knows what not to recommend. Because our Mr. Mott never checks a bag, it does not offer to waive a baggage charge. Nor does it offer him a business-class upgrade since he always travels business anyway.
While travelers are feeling the love, the airline benefits from providing its customer-facing agents with a much-needed solution that allows them to do their jobs better. They’re the ones on the front lines that are primarily responsible for delivering satisfied customers. Now they have a tool that empowers them to do just that but within the safe haven of automated, consistently applied parameters.
The end result is a traveler that feels acknowledged, valued and taken care — instead of processed — as he or she goes from booking to embarking, to arrival and back. They stay loyal, choose you first for all of their travel needs, recommend you to friends in social media posts.