Airlines Must Focus Digital Transformation Efforts on Customer Experience

For incumbent airlines, it probably doesn’t feel so long ago that air travel was a luxury for consumers. The market was competitive, but nothing compared to today’s hyper-competitive environment.

Now, the customer journey that airlines once owned is being overrun by online travel agents (OTAs) like Expedia. The real problem is that these OTAs aren’t even making money off flight bookings—they’re selling ancillary services after pulling travelers in and airlines now want a piece of the action.

To keep up with the competition, airlines must succeed with digital transformation. However, rather than focusing on backend profitability, airlines should be driving digital transformation through feature-rich customer conversations.

Leaning on the New Distribution Capability Isn’t Enough

In late 2015, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) released the first standards within its New Distribution Capability (NDC).

The NDC is a worldwide effort to standardize flight and travel data (booking info, rates, availability, pricing, etc.) between airlines, OTAs, and traditional travel agents. The main promise is that by simplifying and standardizing this data, the airline industry as a whole can lower costs, facilitate innovation, and make comparisons easier amongst competition.

There’s nothing wrong with standardizing data and trying to simplify travel processes. But it’s interesting to look at who the IATA feels will benefit from these standards—full-service/low-cost airlines, content aggregators/travel agents, and corporate buyers/travelers.

It’s great that corporate travelers are thought of as beneficiaries, but where’s the focus on customers in this airline retailing approach? It may seem subtle, but there are critical differences between standardizing data for airline profitability as opposed to focusing on the customer experience benefits.

Access to standardized data won’t help an airline differentiate itself without a communications interface that keeps customers engaged.

The Rising Expectations for a Mobile Airline Experience

At this point, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that mobile is the universal way to interact with consumers at any stage of the customer journey.

And yet, 64% of airline executives feel they’re falling short when it comes to delivering a top-notch mobile experience. Simply having a mobile presence isn’t enough for airlines to stand out in a competitive market. According to the SITA 2017 Passenger IT Trends Survey, these are the mobile services airlines should start delivering:

  • Flight updates
  • Notifications about mishandled baggage
  • Real-time bag tracking
  • Bag collection details
  • Digital travel concierge
  • Wayfinding
  • And biometrics throughout the airline experience

It’s no secret that travelers are doing more with self-service portals (90% of flights are booked this way). But competitive airlines will take their digital experiences a step further.

This is where Layer comes in.

How Layer Helps Airlines Transform the Digital Customer Experience

Take a look at this quote from a recent Accenture report on digital airline strategies:

“Because airlines are just a ‘link in the travel chain’ most customers are not very intimate with them. Companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon are part of customers’ daily lives, and know much more about them than airlines ever will. These companies can use analytics to learn about people’s travel plans long before the airlines find out about them.”

The authors go on to explain how important it is to connect with OTAs and these big tech companies. But what if you flip this limited perception of the airline conversation experience? There’s nothing stopping you from connecting with travelers on the intimate level that will lead to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.

With the Layer Customer Conversation Platform, you can create a unique customer experience with all of the digital services travelers are coming to expect.

Airlines White Background from Layer on Vimeo.

A versatile customer conversation interface like the one shown in this mock up can help you:

  • Maximize Passenger Revenue Per Available Seat Mile: With the tools to deliver concierge experiences, you can capitalize on the ancillary services that OTAs are currently dominating.
  • Minimize Cost Per Available Seat Mile: Create operational leverage for customer support and call centers that makes service experiences far less frustrating for consumers—and less time-intensive for agents.
  • Foster Traveler Loyalty: Learn customer preferences over time and push personalized offers that will keep travelers coming back to you for future travel plans.
  • Own the Entire Customer Journey: Today’s travelers consult dozens of sites when planning all aspects of a trip. With Layer conversations powering your experience, you can simplify the process and bring everything under your own app roof.

Your digital experience is less limited than you think. Contact us today to learn how Layer can help you transform customer conversations and get out ahead of the airline competition.