One of the stories that CEO Marc Benioff used to tell in his keynote addresses at Salesforce events around the world was to spin a yarn about flying into a city, getting to the hotel and finding that all his needs had been anticipated. He’d been upgraded, his meal preferences had been taken into account in advance etc etc. It was the perfect service experience.
The punchline of course was the same every time the story was told:
This. Never. Happened!
The story was told to illustrate the disjointed nature of customer service, in this case in the travel and hospitality industry. That was a few years ago now, but at this week’s Dreamforce conference there was a notable first – a keynote session dedicated entirely to travel, transportation and hospitality, indicative of the importance in a hugely competitive global market of making service a competitive differentiator.
A case in point is Australian budget airline Jetstar, part of the Quantas Group. Now 13 years told, the airline’s selling point begins with price, but it can’t compete on that alone in an incredibly fast-growing regional market. In 15 years time, there will be more travellers in Asia-Pac than the rest of the world put together.
Cathryn Arnold, Head of Digital at Jetstar, explains:
Jetstar started from the perspective that Quantas knowing that it really needed to service the low cost market in Australa. Instead of devaluing their brand, they started up a new airline. We started pretty small with the premise of providing accessible travel to our customer base. In 2004, in Australia, 35 million people travelled annually; today in 2017 that number is 65 million. And our population growth is only 15% so we’ve doubled travel by providing accessibility for the customer base.
From humble beginnings, the airline has taken-off dramatically, she adds:
We started in Australia. We’re in Japan with a domestic airline, in Vietnam with a domestic airline. We have international services. We have 37 million customers travelling with us annually. Of those 37 million, 24 million of them fly for under a hundred Australian dollars.
But as noted above, it’s not all about saving a dollar or two on a flight. Even low-budget airlines need to have a reputation for service to succeed. Arnold insists that Jetstar today competes – and differentiates – on a combination of brand and service:
Price is key, it’s sensitive and we have to deliver to that, but we can’t just deliver to that. It’s one thing getting a customer on board because it was cheap, but it’s not acceptable to be cheap. We have to serve the customers really well amd customer expecations are high. Customers are hyper-connected. They have expectations that [their flight] will be on time and they will get great service. Salesforce helps us to do that.
Cleared for take-off
A particular issue for Jetstar was around that holiest of CRM Holy Grails, the single view of the customer. Arnold recalls:
We had a single customer view that was a very poor cousin of a single customer view initially. It was basically not visible to anybody, so no-one could actually use it. The key thing for us was to make that transparent and available to people so that they could actually see the connections around the customers, understand their value, what they actually need, what are the next steps in their journey. Data is the key that pulls that together. Hiding it is not going to help anybody.
Customer standards have changed beyond recognition from 20 years ago when Arnold started in the airline industry at low-cost UK start-up:
[Back then] we had a website. You could book [with it] and that was about it. That was acceptable 20 years ago. For customer service, we would open a letter from a customer and read it. It took our customer time and effort to write that letter to us and it took us time and effort to write back. Now it’s incredibly different. Customers expect us to know what they’re doing, know where they are. They have so many ways to connect with us and they expect us to be able to connect back in the same ways.
All of which led Jetstar to Salesforce, she adds:
Our need with Salesforce was for it to take us on a ‘smart servicing’ journey. How do we service our customers in a really smart way? We are low cost at the end of the day, so we didn’t want to spend a significant amount of money. So we had to find really neat ways of achieving that from a mass perspecive but in a personalised way. We use the Service Cloud. We use Live Chat. We use Messenger. We take Social Studio to move customers through cases and solve problems that they have, when they do those one line tweets or messages on Facebook.
Jetstar’s use of Service Cloud has various functional elements that enable agents to deal with customer issues on a proactive as well as reactive basis. For example, it has IBM Watson weather alerts fully integrated so that it can trigger alerts when scheduled flights are going to be cancelled due to bad weather. This then enables the Salesforce system to communicate with the customer, using the most appropriate communication channel based on preference and on the severity of the problem.
It can also anticipate new issues to be addressed on the basis of a reported problem. So, for example, if a passenger has had a flight cancelled and has been rebooked onto an earlier flight, the Salesforce dashboard might present three possible options for that person to be calling a Jetstar agent. The first alert might be to remind that hotel transfer bookings will need to be rescheduled. A second alert might then indicate that a meal preference from the original flight is not available on the revised one. Finally a third alert flags up that because the passenger is on an earlier flight, an earlier hotel check-in time is needed.
To date, Jetstar is reporting no turbulence on its Salesforce flight. Arnold offers up one piece of advice to others in the industry facing the same issues:
One piece of advice I would share is, basically, just do it! Start small, but definitely do it. When we were going live there was a volcano [about to erupt] in Bali at the same time and everybody said, ‘Let’s not do it, let’s not do it’. We turned round and said, ‘What’s the problem, the volcano hasn’t erupted yet. Basically, let’s just do it!’.
Image credit - Jetstar
Disclosure - At time of writing, Salesforce is a premier partner of diginomica.