Whether business-to-business or business-to-consumer, customers always come first. Why? Because giving customers the best possible experience promotes customer loyalty, and thereby, drives revenue.

That’s pretty fundamental, but today, customers expect more than ever before because they have become accustomed to companies knowing who they are; what they like; and when, where and how they want to be served. That’s a result of advanced technology such as smartphones and tablets, as well as all the available customer data that helps educate companies about their customers’ behaviors. Therefore, putting customers at the forefront is essential to any successful business.

In the era of social media, negative customer experiences have a far greater adverse effect on an airline because people have access to numerous avenues for sharing their stories, and they are eager to go public. Unhappy customers are blogging and tweeting in every possible channel to make sure their story is far reaching.

Naturally, there will be unsatisfied customers, but with some level of attention and compassion, a negative outcome can be avoided. In fact, if handled with care, an unsatisfied customer can be turned around, which could potentially generate positive publicity for the airline as opposed to the negative publicity it could expect by not properly handling an unfortunate situation.

In general, there appears to be some disconnect between airlines and their customers. Part of the problem, as I mentioned, is that customers have come accustomed to specific service levels they receive from other industries. So they expect the same from their airline of choice. Another aspect is that airlines don’t always use customer data to their advantage. They aren’t properly mining the data to determine exactly what appeals to customers on an individual level or understand or know the interactions or experiences with that particular customer.

The crux of the customer-experience problem, however, is that many airlines don’t have a sound customer-experience strategy in place and haven’t made substantial investments in this area. But they should, and here’s one of many reasons why.

A recent study by 3IBM revealed that with an investment of US$34 million in a customer-experience strategy, a large carrier can expect full return on investment within 16 months. After five years, the approximate total benefit would be US$582 million.

At Sabre Airline Solutions®, we strive to help airlines raise the bar in customer-experience excellence. We work closely with them to devise a sound customer-experience strategy. We research other customer-driven industries so we can help airlines incorporate best practices and principles into their strategy. We develop technology that enables them to boost customer experience at every touchpoint. Bottom line … we strive to bring advancements to the industry so you can give your customers the best possible end-to-end travel experience.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Ascend, and I look forward to working with you as, together, we introduce new developments that keep your customers coming back time and time again.