Customer Centricity On The Rise
Data As The Driving Force Behind Deeper Airline Customer Analysis
In today’s customer-centric airline, accumulation and better analysis of data are driving development of ever-more-specific customer-based factors, which can be quantified and better dealt with as complementary collections of data outside traditional business silos, in personal data profiles. The Customer Data Hub enables better handling of customer data, essentially prompting an airline to offer its customer a truly superior customer experience.
In recent years, airlines have taken major steps to focus on customers, and to improve the overall customer journey. However, these improvements are not translating to overall customer satisfaction.
The major problem all airlines face today is that they are behind other industries in knowing their customers, and thereby in knowing their customers’ preferences, habits, likes and dislikes.
For airlines, every trip the customer takes essentially belongs to a “new” individual, because assembly and analysis of extensive customer profiles have simply not been achieved to most carriers’ full capability.
Airlines are trying to bridge some of these gaps by introducing loyalty programs with various means to attract and retain their customers. This provides them the opportunity to learn about their frequent flyers, and to design strategies targeting that segment.
Nonetheless, there is a large segment of the flying public that does not belong to a loyalty program.
That means carriers are missing the opportunity to know those travelers and satisfy their needs. Studies show that major airlines may have up to 80 percent of their customers not participating in their loyalty program, with a significant number of those customers being repeat travelers.
KISS: Know, Identify, Serve, Sell
Enriched Customer Data
The root of a successful end-to-end customer experience is the “KISS” or “know, identify, serve, sell” strategy, whereby airlines know their customers, identify them at each touchpoint, service them at every step of the journey, and sell to them at the right time, price and place. The Customer Data Hub trolls through all of the transactional customer data that airlines store and tie it to a customer profile. The data can then be enriched with external data such as demographic data or social media data, giving airlines the ability to know customer patterns and preferences.
What are some of the key factors that contribute to the overall customer frustration?
One of the problems is a phenomenon described by organizational researchers as “the data silo effect,” which results from a severe lack of cross-departmental and team communication, with teams essentially working by themselves in their own self-created “data silos” and not sharing information with others in their own company.
Just as in many other types of large organizations, the silo effect can be observed in an airline’s data and data-analytics strategy.
The expansive growth of customers’ data in an airline varies from internal and external channels, and forces the carrier to accumulate vast amounts of that information.
Data expansion inflates the data silo effect, and it becomes difficult for airlines to track their customers across many channels and integrate those customers’ data from multiple sources. Each customer leaves a digital footprint through each channel via various interactions, transactions and browsing histories.
The challenge for airlines is to create a single view of their customers by answering several extremely important questions:
- Who are my customers?
- What actions have they taken in the past?
- What are their preferences, likes and dislikes?
- What can the airline expect from them in the future?
- How does the carrier approach them, and influence their decisions?
A Changing Reference Point
A second extremely vital consideration involves the fact that the customer reference point has changed.
The increase of digital content and technology has enabled companies in various industries to analyze customer data and implement means to learn about every single individual’s experience and behaviors.
This information, in turn, has enabled those companies to target and personalize to each individual, guiding and advising that person, thus providing a better end-to-end customer journey.
Customers are comparing their experiences with those companies.
In effect, those customers are in the driver’s seat, so to speak, which can essentially justify demanding the same or better levels of service and overall experience from other companies with which they are interacting.
Airlines are scrambling to follow the trends in identification of customers and their behaviors through each channel, and being able to use that information to increase the levels of customer service and satisfaction.
Reactive, Not Proactive
A third fundamental observation is that airlines are generally “reactive,” and not really “proactive” in relation to the customer’s end-to-end journey.
Traditionally, airlines have focused on delivering individual products and services, not taking into consideration individual preferences and desires of their customers.
Flight scheduling, capacity planning, fare management, ancillary selection and prices are driven by airlines’ interests (and they are driven from the carriers’ point of view, not from their customers’ points of view).
Lack of personal knowledge of customer behavior, in effect, forces airlines to generalize and miss the opportunity to target individual travelers with personalized offerings, product bundles and applicable discounts at the right time through the right channel.
This reactive strategy to the customer journey keeps airline brands in a disadvantageous posture, and can adversely affect customer loyalty and retention, in turn leading to less efficiency for the airline itself.
The Future: SabreSonic Customer Data Hub
Airline executives understand the urgency, and they’re making every effort to shift their companies’ focus to be more customer-centric.
In this process, Sabre is aiding airlines in transforming their organizations from “reactive” to “proactive” by creating best-in-class traveler experiences at every stage of the customer journey, thus enhancing loyalty, increasing profitability and improving satisfaction.
While Sabre’s customer-service strategy primarily revolves around the customer, it is even more so focused around the customer’s end-to-end journey.
Customer Data Hub User Interface
Master Customer Profile
Customer Data Hub creates a master customer profile for real-time decision-making. Airlines use the solution to identify and offer customer-specific products and services at the very time individual customers are willing to make additional purchases based on data captured in their master customer profile.
The first step in this strategy is to know and identify each customer who travels with an airline. SabreSonic Customer Data Hub provides “a single source of the truth” for all customer data by integrating data from multiple touchpoints.
These touchpoints include structured reservations, check-in and ticketing, shopping analytics, buying behavior patterns and social media (all of this information as it has accumulated in multiple data silos), and they all comprise critical elements of the master customer profile for each individual customer.
The Customer Data Hub empowers an airline to identify qualified customers throughout their journey, from the planning phase to the post-trip phase, and to collect and process information in real time with every customer interaction.
It enables an airline to proactively address, adjust and adopt an individual approach to every person at the right time with the right offering through the right channel.
The Customer Data Hub also features scoring and segmentation based on the customer’s previous interactions with the airline, and by building the right facilities for long-term retention of passengers.
It achieves these absolutely critical results by creating differentiation through personalization across all points of sales and service, and that personalization is the key factor in providing offerings customized for the individual in any situation throughout the individual’s own journey.
Burgeoning Customer Experience
Personalizing customer profiles that continue to be constructed and modified over time whenever the customer travels is the future of the airline industry.
Then it’s all accumulated and made readily available at the Customer Data Hub, which is more evolutionary than revolutionary in the context of the travel industry and the customers whose data are being continually accumulated and evaluated.
However, its effects can definitely be characterized as “revolutionary” in nature, placing the customer’s wants and needs first to better serve that customer at every step of every future journey, and shaping airlines’ interactions with the customers they should always know best.