In the 1990s, Sir Colin Marshall, chief executive of British
Airways and the man responsible for turning the iconic British airline from a
sleeping giant into a world leader, was asked by a journalist what he feared
most in his role at BA.
Sir Colin said something along these lines: “The pilots
can be ill, the food can taste bad, the plane can be late and we may lose the
passengers’ baggage. I know I can fix these issues and I will. But the thing I
fear most is our information systems going down. We are critically dependent on
our IT people for delivering our customer experience and for our survival. Our
IT is of strategic importance and I keep my chief information officer really
close to me.”
Those were the 1990s, when digital customer experiences were
still in their embryonic phase, yet Sir Colin, a deeply experienced leader who
had invested very heavily in creating the unique British Airways customer
experience for the “world's favorite airline” understood the importance of
information systems in keeping customers happy.
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Fast-forward to our days,
digital channels, both web and mobile, represent the starting point of any
airline’s customers journeys and a key component of their overall experience.
Getting it right is absolutely vital for airlines all over the world, but their
struggle is real.
The most common digital CX issues they face are:
Difficulty in comparing flights: Leisure travelers tend to
have considerable flexibility on their arrival and departure dates and even on
which airport they fly into and out of, but airlines often make this task an
inextricable maze, unnecessarily complicated.
- How to tackle this issue:
Session‐replay technologies can help airlines understand where exactly
customers are experiencing difficulties and how to address them.
Inability to complete a booking or perform changes to an
existing booking (e.g., seat upgrade): This issue alone can cost airlines tens
of millions of dollars in revenue and incalculable damage to customer
experience and satisfaction.
- How to tackle this issue: Customer
journey analysis can give airlines an idea of why customers failed to book a
ticket or make changes to it. Did they encounter an error? Did they get to seat
selection and discover only middle seats were left on that flight? Or were they
surprised to discover that the ticket price didn’t include all of the fees and
taxes, and the grand total was too much for them? By discovering when a
purchase was abandoned, airlines can determine whether they could have done
anything to retain that customer.
Trouble answering questions: Airlines’ customer services are
notorious for being flyers’ most dreaded touch point in their journey. The use
of chat boxes has somewhat alleviated such pain and much can be learned from
- How to tackle this issue: Chat box
data analytics are a goldmine for discovering CX issues. If customers are
frequently turning to an airline’s online support to get answers to basic questions
that are answered elsewhere on the airline’s site, it may be that the
information is simply too difficult to find. Additionally, CX analysts may find
that customers are frequently asking questions that aren’t covered on a website
or mobile app and clearly needed to be added to the FAQ.
Once airlines understand more about the issues that trouble
their website or mobile app, and before they successfully tackle them, it’s
time for them to face the ugly truth and calculate how much each issue costs them.
In fact, nowadays the most sophisticated analytics tools
include a feature that tracks the lost revenue from an error or other CX issue.
By using this data, airlines can not only determine how much revenue was lost
but also how much further loss was prevented by identifying and fixing the
This knowledge can help when determining how to allocate IT
resources and prioritize CX fixes. When they can see, for instance, how much
revenue the lost bookings account for, they can determine the importance of
fixing an issue or providing a quick work‐around until a permanent fix is
So, while the industry seems to be deeply troubled by
ongoing cost‐cutting exercises and their impact on customer experience, a
solution is there for them to grab. The use of big data analytics offers
airlines the possibility to both increase revenue and improve customer
satisfaction, a much‐awaited win‐win route that industry players have yet to
About the author...
Pezzoli is director of marketing for Glassbox Digital