By Rhoderick Van Der Wyck, Director, Global Industry Practice - Travel, Transport & Logistics, BT
Demand for air travel is booming. Passenger numbers are expected to reach seven billion by 2034, with the fastest growth occurring in Asia, South America and Africa. As a result, air travel is fast becoming a commodity product. Low cost carriers now control 25 percent of the market worldwide and their business model has disrupted traditional patterns of business forever. In response, airlines around the world are seeking differentiation through the total experience they deliver for travelers.
In the race to be the best, airlines are offering an increasing array of digital in flight services, such as free Wi-Fi, personal device connectivity and access, and wireless streaming of multimedia entertainment and content.
Yet the most spectacular impact of digital is on the ground, with airlines transforming the customer experience both before and after the flight. The logistically-critical nature of air travel means that passengers demand human-to-human contact to get the best advice and assistance from someone with expert knowledge - whether that is via WebChat, video, telephone or instant messaging.
According to Price water house Coopers (PwC), consumers have grown accustomed to seeing significant improvements in their buying experiences. Despite the many recent technological advances in the aviation industry, air travels has not followed this pattern and remain for many a grumble-worthy experience.
So what do Customers Expect?
Eighty three percent of air travelers carry smartphones and, like consumers everywhere, their expectations of service are escalating and they increasingly want:
To be known: Passengers may make initial contact at the website or applications and continue through multiple channels. However, once they have given an organization permission to keep their personal information, they do not expect to have to repeat it. Airlines have a significant amount of customer data, but it’s frequently stored in separate databases across the organization, making it hard to prepare a single profile for each customer.
To be in control: Self-service began as a cost cutting measure, but has since become the preferred default for routine transactions. The ongoing challenge is how to balance self-service with good customer experience and security considerations. A key question for the aviation and other industries is: “how far should automation go?” Customers want a frictionless experience and self-service only works when it is easier than the alternatives and customers clearly understand the benefits.
To be informed: Alongside self-service, customers expect to receive accurate and up-to-date information on such things as flight status, baggage delivery, visas and health regulations.
When customers have more complex issues, whether before booking or checking in their
A Digitally-Enabled, Cloud-Based Future
Digital technologies and cloud services give every industry limitless opportunities to rethink and reshape the way they do business.
Like companies in other sectors, airlines have traditionally relied upon an often complex network of suppliers and legacy systems. This poses both security risks and challenges in transforming their businesses to reap the many benefits offered by the digitally-enabled, cloud-based future which waits.
With transition to the cloud inevitable, here are five key principles for success that BT has shared with our airline customers:
• By storing customer data in the cloud, airlines can deliver a consistent customer experience everywhere. Cloud makes it easier to scale capacity up and down in line with peaks and troughs of demand and to easily add new products and services.
• You don’t have to move everything to the cloud at once. Connecting disparate networks and sites is a good first step, and then companies can begin to move to the cloud and manage their workforce and resources more effectively. When customer data is stored in one place, customers can begin to analyze it and develop a more informed view of patterns and future requirements.
• Creating a better customer experience must be part of an end-toend integration strategy that embraces people, processes and technology. This requires a wider business transformation that includes, for example, new performance measures.
• Cloud gives companies huge flexibility and choice. It means not being locked into one way of doing things and businesses can adapt as the business grows and evolves.
• It is difficult for businesses to go alone. Transitioning to the cloud and delivering seamlessly excellent customer service is a big task, even for the most technologicallysophisticated organization. Leading airlines are choosing independent technology partners with the networking expertise, integration skills and cyber security credentials to ensure the level of performance they expect.
• Cloud of Clouds strategy takes away the complexity from airlines to manage disparate cloud systems and applications from different providers. It does not matter whether the airlines are using cloud solutions from Amazon, Microsoft or a multitude of different suppliers. Cloud of Clouds ensures a seamless and holistic integration and a security overlay to protect the infrastructure and the data, thus enhancing cost-effectiveness.
“Cloud makes it easier to scale capacity up and down in line with peaks and troughs of demand and to easily add new products and services”
The contact centre is a great example of how cloud technology can provide a single, central capability that handles passenger information and relationships in the age of the digital traveler. With this bedrock of customer knowledge and accessibility anywhere, airlines can begin to truly create a more personalized, positive experience for passengers.
For instance, Etihad Airways has established itself as one of the world’s leading airlines by placing great emphasis on the quality of its service. One way it has achieved this to bring even greater innovation to its contact centres.
A cloud-based contact centre that is a strategic hub for customer information and communication has many business benefits, including a more personal customer experience, the ability to employ advanced analytics to make sense of all the data that is flooding in and increased insight into customer behaviour and preferences with which airlines can develop new services and strategies across different parts of their business.
A digitally enabled, cloud-based contact centre helps airlines deliver high standards of self service, supported by tailored content and skilled human experts who respond to passengers and solve problems on the spot.
For Etihad, it’s three contact centres (located in Abu-Dhabi, Al Ain and Manchester) are central to ensuring every guest interaction is of the highest quality, which is why the airline decided to bring them together into one virtual entity using cloud platform.
The airline’s hosted, cloud-based contact centre allows it to centralize its resources and exploit economies of scale. This approach helped Etihad guest numbers reach a record of 15 million during 2015.
Founded in 1969, the UK based, BT [(NYSE:BT)] a communications services provider, offers fixed-line services, broadband, mobile and TV products and services as well as networked IT services to customers in the UK and across the world.