A Magazine for airline executives
2016 Issue No. 4

Sabre + Skift Present:

Building Customer Memory:
How Airlines Can Create A Customer‑Centric Digital Experience

In a recent report conducted by Skift and commissioned by Sabre, Skift explores how airlines can achieve true passenger personalization; strengthen their brands; form strong, loyal relationships; decrease the pressure on frontline personnel; and boost purchase rates of ancillary and à la carte products and services.

Executive Summary

The chatter around personalized technology focuses on a utopian ideal: seamless technology, satisfied customers, improved operational efficiencies and increased ancillary revenues. Those results are welcome — and can be achieved — but only through the design of flexible digital systems that make connecting with customers on a personal level easier by anticipating needs, resolving concerns and suggesting solutions at the right time to motivate ancillary purchases or improve customer engagement.

Getting from now to “next” in the pathway of forging strong customer relationships requires robust customer memory. That can be improving the organization’s memory of customer identity, status, needs and preferences, as well as building positive customer memories of their brand experience. Installing systems to support these objectives requires a clearly defined roadmap of the passenger journey. It also requires a manageable plan of action, timing the right interactions around the most common needs of travelers at each travel touchpoint and better managing disruptions when they happen to improve speed and efficiency of response time.

Sabre’s commissioning of this report has allowed Skift, a global travel industry intelligence company, to delve into goals, strategies and emerging digital technologies of innovative airlines that are Sabre customers and have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, customer-centric digital-retailing systems.

From them, we learn:
  • The opportunities these systems offer;
  • The importance of defining the pathway of customer touchpoints with a flexible back-end reservations system that enables customized, unique digital engagement based on the airline’s strategy;
  • The gathering and effective application of customer insights;
  • The deployment of a multi-channel, multi-platform approach to digital commerce.

In this report, Skift examines ways airlines can build more reliable paths to true passenger personalization; reinforce brand; build strong loyalty relationships; reduce the burden on frontline personnel (empowering them with the tools and information to respond appropriately to customer needs); and raise purchase rates of ancillary and à la carte products and services.


Introduction

The pathways of customer memory can be mapped at each touchpoint along the journey from the moment of travel inspiration to the happy return home. Letting a customer wander in the dark without encouraging signs of progress and points of familiarization can derail the best intent of customer-centric systems. At worst, it can lead to long-lasting negative experiences.

Brand experience memory drives customer loyalty. Consumers can make arbitrary judgments influenced by their sense of self in relation to surroundings and circumstances. The more positive feelings those surroundings inspire, the better impression a brand makes at travel touchpoints (both routine and for disruption management), and the bond between the customer and the airline strengthens.

Traveling side-by-side with customers and staying on top of their individual needs consistently throughout the journey at multiple touchpoints is only possible through automation. Even when the contact touchpoint is a frontline employee, passenger needs can best be addressed when empowered by a technology interface with real-time passenger data that can immediately flag high-tier loyalty program members and high-revenue flyers.

Gathering and correlating customer history is also part of building customer memory. The term applies to what a brand remembers about the customer, as well as what the customer remembers about the brand. This is based on shared experiences over time stored as passenger data that is correlated and accessed by customer-centric systems for each trip.

The implementation of fully integrated customer-centric systems should be simple. They should be mapped in achievable milestones. Each contributing element is a step forward to “next” in the passenger journey. Therefore, an airline needs the flexibility to create a responsive user interface and develop an understanding of customer data to personalize the experience in a way that satisfies customer needs. There should be a high level of integration with operational systems to help handle disruptions as they happen through mobile devices, as well as create bundled ancillary offers across channels. This requires a flexible, open back-end reservations system that makes controlling engagement easier, yields customer insights, and is flexible across channels and storefronts, on any devices at all touchpoints.


About Skift

Skift is a travel intelligence company that offers news, data, and services to professionals in travel and professional travelers, to help them make smart decisions about travel.

Skift is the business of travel.

Visit skift.com for more.