Are You Setting Yourself Up For Failure

The Situation:

My job entails a lot of travel and that has resulted in me amassing a decent number of miles on an airlines frequent flier program.

A few weeks back, I got an email from the airline announcing that they will equip their aircrafts with wi-fi and if I downloaded an app, I shall be able to have access to an array of inflight entertainment options.

I love watching movies. This was exciting news for me as it gave me an opportunity to catch up on movies that I had missed watching when they originally screened.

So, excitedly, I downloaded the app and was eagerly looking forward to my next trip on the airlines, which was coming up in the next couple of days.

On the day, I board the aircraft and eagerly ask the flight attendant about the wi-fi access. I was then informed by the attendant that the aircraft that we were flying was not equipped with this feature as yet. Though I was disappointed, I was looking forward to actually having access to all the movies soon.

On my return trip, I asked the check-in clerk if the aircraft that I was about to board had the in-flight entertainment system and realized that she had no idea about what I was talking. So, I asked the flight attendant and was yet again informed that this particular aircraft was not equipped with this feature yet. It was disappointing.

On my next flight, which was a much more busier sector (Bangalore – Mumbai), I tried to find out again  and was informed by the cabin-crew in-charge (yes, I did ask her this time, not relying on anyone else) that this feature was enabled, every time an aircraft went for its scheduled maintenance. For the in-flight entertainment to be made available on all the flights would easily take more than a month.

I have flown atleast three more sectors since the announcement and I am yet to see in-flight entertainment in the airline.

What Went Wrong:

This made me think – what made the airline announce this feature so far ahead of time, when almost none of their aircraft was equipped to offer this facility to their customers?

The only effect this left with their customers is a feeling of disappointment every time they flew on an aircraft that was not equipped with this feature.

This is a classic example of setting yourself up for failure Click To Tweet

What Would I Have Done:

If I were the person responsible for this communication at the airline, I would have done two things differently:

  1. I would NOT HAVE sent out an email announcing this feature to all the passengers. I would wait for them to come on-board and once they are there, I would announce this on the in-flight announcement system and request the passengers to download the app to make use of in-flight entertainment. This would have served two purposes – it introduces an element of positive surprise, which increases the customer satisfaction levels. And these passengers would then go out and tell their family members, friends and colleagues about this app. This makes them an insider along with the airline and makes them look cool. Again, this increases customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. This also creates word-of-mouth publicity for the airline.
  2. I would wait for atleast 50% aircrafts to have the facility before announcing this either on email or in-flight.

Conclusion:

5 Questions you could ask yourself, before sending out product announcements Click To Tweet
  1. Is there any benefit of letting our customers discover this for themselves, rather than us announcing it (if it is possible)?
  2. Can we enable our customers to spread the word about this rather than us doing this? Can we make our customers look good to their followers (on social media and social settings) when they spread the word about this?
  3. Is this the right time for me to communicate this to my customers? Is there any benefit of delaying this further?
  4. Is this the right medium for me to communicate this to my customers? Is there a better medium available?
  5. What do we want our customers to feel and do, once they become aware of this? How can we help them with this?

Answering these questions honestly will enable you to not set yourself up for failure, like the airlines did when it pre-announced the availability of its in-flight entertainment system.

So, the question that we all need to answer is the following:

Are you doing something that is setting yourself up for failure?

Right Data at the Right Time to the Right People

Right Data, Right time, Right People

Today I was travelling from Bangalore to Mumbai on an airline. I had a upgrade voucher that I used and got upgraded to Business Class.

As soon as the flight took off, I realized that 6 of the 16 business class seats were un-occupied.

That is such a waste of opportunity. The airline could have used this opportunity to delight at least 6 of their loyal customers.

All the airline had to do was the following:

  1. Include the Frequent flier status/miles of the passengers in their manifesto.
  2. Once the boarding is completed and if there are vacant seats in the business cabin, look at the manifesto and invite the passenger with the most miles to move to the business class seats. It is such a waste to let business class seats go un-used.

This is just one small thing that the crew could do based on the information that the passenger manifesto could have.

There is so much more that the airline could do:

  • They could have meaningful conversation with the customers on-board as they would know if the passenger is home bound or out bound.
  • They could give gifts to passengers who were flying on their birthdays or anniversaries. Maybe they could even throw an impromptu party for these passengers in the sky.

These small things can go a long way in not only delighting their customers but also making them keep coming back.

What I am driving at is that the possibilities are limitless once you are able to get the right data made available to the right people at the right time and empowering your employees to make decisions that are right in that moment.

And this is something that can be done right away, without any additional information, just by tweaking the existing information and making it available.

What this also hints at is that before organizations like this airline start looking at big data and data mining, they should start with the small data that they already have and use it well.

So, the question is what in your business is like the un-utilized business class seats? And what are you going to do about it?

Customer Engagement: Ideas for Airlines to Improve Customer Engagement

A bright future for airlines who have good customer engagement
A bright future for airlines who have good customer engagement

The airline industry has been notoriously infamous about the poor customer experience and engagement. This has also played a big part on the overall profitability of the industry. The only airlines that are making profits are the one’s that have some semblance of good customer experience going.

If you take flights for work on a regular basis, you will agree that we spend enormous amounts of time reaching the airport, at the airport (both at the destination & the origin), on-board the aircraft and the drive away from the airports. So, I thought what could the airlines do to help us remain productive or engaged through the entire journey and below are some of the ideas that i could think of:

  1. Make available indoor games within the aircraft (games like crossword, Sudoku, playing cards, puzzles, lego blocks, chess, Chinese checkers, etc).
  2. In longer flights, run an impromptu crossword or sudoku competition. Give the winners a small token of appreciation.
  3. Play dumb charades on-board.
  4. Create a short story competition for passengers flying on a flight. Announce the theme for the short story post take off. Passengers need to write these stories on board the flight and submit before the flight lands.
  5. Make all these stories available for download for free.
  6. Hire an editor and select the top 100 short stories and publish them as a book. Give the book away to all passengers flying on a specific day on your airline.
  7. Use the “Best Journey Ever” and “Worst journey Ever” themes for the short story contest. This will tell you what passengers value while travelling and what they hate. Reduce/eliminate what they hate and increase and enhance what they love.
  8. At peak times, provide a newspapers or magazines to passengers in queue (at the check-in counter) which they can drop at the counter while collecting their boarding pass.
  9. Put a game of sudoku or crossword or an interesting quote at the back of the boarding pass.
  10. Publicly share the names of the people who are travelling on the same flight (with passenger permission, also share whatever they are willing to share, company, role, etc). This would provide passengers to connect and network instead of just pass time.
  11. Run a contest inviting passengers to shoot themselves making the safety announcement and submit on YouTube. Pick top videos and reward them. Use some of the ideas on board and also announce the name of the passenger who submitted that idea.
  12. Provide 2 stickers (smiley and sad face) during boarding. Request the customers to stick the smiley based on their experience on-board the aircraft.

These are some ideas that i think can be implemented with not much expense and at the same time will dramatically improve the customer engagement on-board the aircraft.

Can you think of some ideas that airlines could use to improve their customer engagement? Please share them here as well. Maybe, some airline might use some of these ideas and our travel experience better.

Travel booking sites are destroying the airline industry..

The proliferation of travel booking sites like (travelocity, expedia, makemytrip, cleartrip, Yatra, etc) have reduced the airline industry to an industry competing purely on price and this is telling on the profitability of the industry.

This so happens as price is the easiest way to compare multiple airlines. That coupled with the fact that most of the ticket bookings happen on these sites provides them with too much influence over the airline carriers and sets off the negative spiral of lower and lower prices for sectors.

Result is that almost all the players in the industry are in the red.

The airlines will need to figure out a different strategy to get out of this price competition. Some things that airlines could do are:

  1. Stop competing on price:  Delist themselves from all the travel  booking sites. Sell tickets only through their own portal. Even better would be if they can create an app for the smart-phones and allow your customers to book tickets from within the app.
  2. Start competing on convenience or comfort. Design the entire experience with passenger convinience as the top priority; starting from how the customers book their tickets, how they are treated when they arrive at the airport, the entire check-in process, boarding, in-flight experience, post landing experience, etc.
  3. Start competing on speed. Design the entire processes around getting the passengers in and out of the airport as quickly as possible.
  4. Start competing on luxury. Pamper your customers (holiday experience) at every step of the way. Identify niche routes and start operating luxury flights (could be shared chartered flights on those routes)
  5. Change your customer. Instead of treating the passenger as your customer, treat them as your ware and charge for their attention (in-flight advertising or shopping or entertainment). Find out who could pay for the un-divided attention of these 150-200 people.
These are just some ideas to differentiate an airline. Once you decide to differentiate, there could be so many ways to do so.
Continuous innovation and differntiation is the only way that the airline industry can survive and grow. Southwest and other such airlines have shown the way.
Hope someone from the industry is thinking along these lines as well.

Why Airlines need to re-design their loyalty programs

Today, I was reading an article “Why Airlines Need to Reconsider What “Loyalty” Is Today…”. This brought back a few questions to my mind.

I work for an MNC and my work involves a lot of travel within India. My company has a corporate deal with an airline (Jet Airways) in India to minimize the cost of travel. So, most of the times, I am required to take a Jet Air flight. I do not like flying Jet but do travel quite a bit in Jet due to the company policy. The company also allows me the freedom to choose a different airline if there is no Jet Air flights available at the time I want to fly.

Now, 80% if my travel in the past couple of months have been on a different carrier – Indigo.  How? I plan my trips in such a way, that there are no Jet Air flights available at that time and hence I am allowed to choose the carrier I want to use to fly.

There are some interesting lessons to be learned from this behaviour for both Jet Air & Indigo.

For JetAir:

  1. I did fly a lot on Jet Air and will continue to use them every now and then. This allows me to collect frequent flier miles on that airline. So, should Jet Air consider me as a loyal customer ?
  2. What kind of offers can Jet provide me in order to continue to attract me?
  3. Do they know if I am flying with them most of my trips or also using competing airline carriers?
  4. How can they find out how much could i be worth to them in terms of revenue?
  5. How can they find out if I am a loyal customer with the airline? If yes, how can they continue to keep me happy & loyal? If not, how can they convert me into a loyal customer?

For Indigo:

  1. How does Indigo know if I am a loyal customer (which I am)
  2. What could Indigo do to increase my loyalty and make a fan out of me?
  3. How can Indigo leverage my loyalty and help me spread word about how I feel about Indigo?

I think there are a few trends and technological advances which now allow organizations to be able to profile their customers to this level of granularity. The combination of advanced analytics, social media and big data capabilities now offer the power of making individual offers to select profiles of customers possible.

Now imagine the following:

  1. Jet realizes that I am only using the Jet airways when I do not have an option, they can initiate contact to understand why I do not use Jet all the time.
  2. Jet creates and delivers special promotions personalized to me to win over my business.
  3. Indigo, on the other hand knows that i like travelling their airline. So, they provide me opportunities on the social media platform to promote or atleast to show that I like travelling Indigo to my broader network.
  4. They could tailor their offers to me in order to continue to retain my loyalty.

In the end, its the customers who win and the organizations that provide true customer value (personalized) will win the business in the long run.