How airlines can offer customized experiences to the passengers

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It is not possible to quantify customer experiences. Yet, they play the most important role in the success of businesses worldwide. In fact, as per the latest Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report 2019, about 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. 66% of the customers are even willing to pay more for a great experience. 

The UK travel company, Thomas Cook, recently ceased its operations after declaring bankruptcy. This announcement resulted in 150,000 stranded travelers who need to be brought back to their homes. Now, the ‘bankruptcy and liquidation’ part might have been out of the travel company’s control. But, if it manages to bring all the stranded travelers back safely and conveniently, it will be a huge win for the now-collapsed company in terms of customer satisfaction. 

The non-reliability of airlines directly affects customer satisfaction levels. Flight delays, last-minute cancellation and rescheduling, and baggage loss are some of the major contributing factors in making an airline non-reliable. As the technologies advance and people become more connected, the list expands with the inclusion of chunky ticket booking applications, non-intuitive user interface of search consoles, slow check-in systems, non-availability of WiFi on air, among others.  

PwC survey reported that for 73% of surveyees, a positive experience is among the key drivers that influence their brand loyalties. This ‘positive experience’ encompasses various factors such as speed, convenience, friendliness, helpfulness. As the customer expectations grow, it is necessary that airlines address them proactively to yield the maximum satisfaction from the flyers. Customers expect to get what they paid for – maybe even more, but definitely not less.  

Experiences differ from customer to customer. However, there are a few common factors that play integral role in defining those experiences for all the airline passengers: 

  • Operational efficiency: Ground operations is the biggest reason for flight inefficiencies. These operational activities take place independently and do not cross-communicate. This lack of communication creates a huge operational barrier, often resulting in unplanned maintenance, delayed inspections, and consequently rescheduling of flights and frustrated customers.  
  • Personalization: 85% of travelers are willing to provide additional information to airlines so long as they receive a personalized treatment and a smooth flying experience. The 2019 North America Airline Satisfaction study showed that in-flight services prove to be a stumbling block in generating a positive effect. 
  • Costs: After the UK airline collapsed, the rival airlines are hiking the fares by as much as 400%. The already disgruntled, worried, and stranded passengers are now facing such unreasonable airfare hike from airlines. Proliferation of the low-cost carrier airlines showcase the tendency of passengers to incline towards a cost-effective airline. Although passengers do expect a luxurious treatment, they do not want to burn holes in their pockets for a single air trip. 
  • Interaction: From the time a passenger starts searching for flights till they claim their baggage and leave the airport, they want their interaction with the airline to be as smooth as possible. This involves the usability of booking application, ease of navigation, ease of payment, timely reminders from the airline, advanced intimation of any changes, and feedback process of the flying experience. 

How Sentiment Analysis help 

The Salesforce report suggested that 54% of the customers want to change the way brands engage with them. We are living in the “age of customer-driven digital.” This means, technology and innovation are overpowering legacy methods to deliver the greatest customer experiences. We are living in a time when connectivity has become the norm. Social media has become the preferred channel of communication and digital presence has become mandatory. 

The digital connectivity bestows immense power to the customers in terms of vocalizing their thoughts, opinions, and reviews on a brand. The customer views expressed on Twitter, Facebook, and other online forums are forming the base of customer strategy for brands worldwide. The equation for deriving customer satisfaction includes their expectations and brands’ ability to meet them. While customers are openly communicating their perception, expectation, and needs online, brands can very easily leverage the available information to strategize their next step. Sentiment Analysis or Opinion Mining can help brands do so. 

Linda Jojo, EVP of Technology and Chief Digital Officer of United Airlines, puts it perfectly in an interview with Forbes when she said, “Once upon a time, the best technology you had was in your office, but that has quickly changed. People have sophisticated technology in their pocket, and this has shaped their expectations for the technology they use at work and in their interactions with different companies. It does not matter whether that company is a legacy business with old systems or a brand-new startup that is nimble and cloud-native, the expectations are the same for all of us.”

90% of the customers admit to making purchase decisions based on online reviews. The social sentiment of vocal customers has prominent impact on the airlines’ business growth. A sentiment analyzer tool utilizes artificial intelligence that considers explicit as well as implied feedback and segregates them as positive, neutral, and negative. The scope of opinions spans across the areas of pricing, flight attendance, boarding process, customer service, baggage, flight schedules, software bugs, and number of uninstallations of an airline’s application. A sentiment analysis generally takes an objective as well as a subjective view to determine the customer experience from a quality perspective to provide actionable insights. 

The findings of a research on Aviation Sentiment Analysis published in the whitepaper, Can Social Sentiment Impact Airlines Business Growth, revealed that reliability is the greatest expectation from an airline while customers expect the airlines’ apps to function and perform seamlessly. Taking the primary information from app store reviews and social media conversations, the analysis identified the issues that customers are facing and what improvements an airline needs to make in its service quality. 

Conclusion 

By performing a thorough opinion mining with tools such as Cigniti’s Sentiment Analyzer, airlines can effectively optimize their customer strategies. Airlines can use sentiment analyzer to offer their passengers the most satisfying flying experience. By using a ‘from the customers, for the customers’ approach, sentiment analysis helps airlines understand areas where they need to improve, where they are excelling, and how better they can serve their passengers. 

Cigniti’s Airlines Testing CoE reflects its in-depth expertise in the industry. Having served some of the world’s largest airlines over the years, the domain experts at Cigniti can help you boost your airline’s growth and deliver the best customer experience. Connect with us to schedule a discussion.