In the background, however, American Airlines has been on another journey, to modernise the customer experience to meet the high expectations of digitally-savvy passengers. Speaking at Oracle OpenWorld, Jason Newton, American Airlines’ director of CRM and sales support IT, gave attendees some insights into how that voyage is unfolding.
Much of the effort is focused on managing changes and disruptions to service, he explained. Today’s passengers expect the airline to handle these issues as smoothly and as quickly as possible, according to Newton, without a great deal of effort on their part:
So we’ve invested a lot of time and effort on empowering our employees, making sure they have the information they need to solve customer issues and making some processes automatic things, like compensation if your flights are delayed or re-accommodations on other flights automatically.
One of the big deliverables here has been iSolve, a mobile app that uses rules based in American Airlines’ back-end Siebel CRM system to ascertain how an individual passenger’s issue should be resolved - with a simple apology, for example, or with air miles. This app should have been rolled out already, said Newton, but the distraction of the merger got in the way. That said, it should be launched very soon now.
[Employees] can run those Siebel rules on their mobile device right there and then, at the point of customer contact.”
We’ve also done some proactive things, like if you’ve been on a delayed American Airlines flight, with a delay of over two-and-a-half or three hours long that was not caused by Mother Nature, you’ll get an email just minutes after you’ve left the plane. That system’s totally automated - it proactively notifies you of how we’ll respond to the issue, based on your experience and the fare you paid.
One area where Newton’s pretty satisfied with the digital passenger experience that American Airlines already offers is in social media. It’s been a big win for the company, he says:
We’ve invested a lot of money and effort into coming up with a platform for dealing with customer service in a social setting that we call ‘Snap’ - [standing for] social network application. Basically, it links the customer’s tweets to the customer’s CRM profile and their flight data in real time, so that we can provide fast and effective customer service without having to look up a bunch of data. We’ve been really successful in that area.
High-value passengers, meanwhile, can shortly expect an even better, highly personalised response from American Airlines staff during periods of disruption - thanks, in part, to the airline’s focus on how mobile and Internet of Things technologies might impact passenger journeys in positive ways.
The first step was to convince Admiral’s Club members to share their photograph with the airline, so that they no longer need to root around in their luggage, trying to find their driver’s licence or passport to verify their identity at the entrance to the airline’s premium lounges. Now, all they need is their Admiral’s Club card. That should help cut the queues that often form outside lounges when bad weather strikes and flights get delayed, which detracts from the exclusive experience that the airline wants to give premium passengers.
The next step, meanwhile, will see American Airlines deploy iBeacon technology over the next twelve months, says Newton.
We’re working with our mobile development team to build iBeacon support and response into our mobile app. You’ll need to be a member of the Club and you’ll need to opt in, but basically the way it will work is like this: as you approach the lounge, the beacons will automatically wake up your phone and the app will ask you if you plan to enter the Club.”
If you do, you just slide a simple bar on your phone, put it back in your pocket and walk through the door. And as you do that, another beacon will let us know you’re coming in, your picture will come up on the attendant’s screen and they’ll welcome you by name and provide you with any flight updates you might need. We’re calling this ‘Seamless Access’ and we think it’ll be an industry first.