Digital ‘nuggets’ to improve the customer experience

united airlineThe latest Amadeus Airline Digital Leaders Forum in Baveno, Italy brought together merchandising, digital, mobile, cloud, big data and customer experience visionaries from across the world.  It was a testament to how much this event has grown in both audience numbers and subject matter that almost 300 delegates and 20 guest speakers participated, including representatives from more than 60 airlines. Many of the speakers were airline leaders, sharing on stage their latest digital innovations, strategies and plans.

Some of the key themes included mastering the digital journey to deliver the best customer experience and unlocking new revenue opportunities by gaining insight into travelers. And as always, the networking and knowledge sharing among industry peers proved invaluable.

Meeting travelers’ demands for information in ‘the blink of an eye’

I think most travelers can agree that airlines have to make it easier for their customers to shop. That means providing accurate fares and relevant content (e.g., Wi-Fi availability, in-flight amenities) at super-fast speed, across any device and earlier in the shopping process.

United is a great example of how to make the inspirational stage of travel faster, simpler and more intuitive for customers.

Leveraging Amadeus’ ‘massive search’ technology, United’s customers can view price of a flight* instantly. They just enter the city pair and hover over a date in the calendar to get an instant fare. By bringing powerful search technology to trip planning, United has made the online retail experience much more appealing.

Search technology is bridging the gap between dream and reality

Moving forward, an airline can take the interactive travel experience to a whole new level. Picture this: you are watching the latest James Bond movie, which opens with a chase scene in Mexico City. You ask yourself where that scene takes place. With your Apple TV app, you can pause the scene and your TV will display flights and prices to Mexico City from your current location. If that wasn’t enough, you can also look at accommodation options and things to do while you are there. If you don’t want to interrupt the movie, you can save your favorite locations and travel options to your iPhone or Apple Watch to view later. It may sound like science fiction, but it isn’t. You should have seen the prototype that United and Amadeus presented at the latest SouthbySouthwest event in Texas this year!

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Why re-invent the wheel when partnerships are also an option?

Travelers have come to expect real-time communication with airlines. They want information where they need it, when they need it, with minimal effort and fuss. The business of digital communication is already well mastered. Facebook Messenger, for example, serves its 1.65 billion monthly active users perfectly well.

Therefore, when KLM was looking at implementing a ‘chat’ tool to include in their mobile app, it made sense to ‘plug in’ to Facebook’s Messenger technology. They know it works, and their travelers are already comfortable using it. By ensuring their staff are connected 24/7, responding to messages, 365 days a year in 13 different languages, they can provide a seamless and personalized service to their customers.

Today, KLM uses Facebook Messenger to send travelers their itinerary, check-in reminders and their boarding pass. The 2-way interaction also enables travelers to send requests or questions directly to the airline anytime.

Incredibly, in the first month alone, this airline’s travelers used Messenger 115,000 times!

Shaping a digital future of travel

The digital space is highly competitive and it is international forums like this that enable industry players to share ideas, futuristic concepts, best practices and challenges, so that we can better manage the customer experience and deliver on service expectations.

*United.com’s new front page search feature is currently available for select U.S. domestic city pairs in economy class. Future releases will provide instant pricing for additional routes, including international, as well as premium cabin searches.

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