Six Steps to Creating a Customer-Centric Strategy for Airlines

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In the pre-COVID 19 world we could argue that customers appreciated a high-quality engagement, interaction, and, ideally, a personalised proposition tailored to their needs.

How different is this notion of customer-centricity in the COVID 19 world?

The Challenge: What do customers want today?

In times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a brand can trigger an immediate and long-term effect on their sense of trust and loyalty. The lens through which they will be looking at the world is their customer experience of whether their new needs are met with empathy, care and concern – particularly for health needs. The question being asked by customers is based on a fundamental concern around a fundamental question: is this safe for me to do? Simple activities like a trip to the grocery store or flying are seen as difficult, risky, or even prohibited.

For airlines, the key to success in a post coronavirus world will be unshackling themselves from their purely operational mindset. The old push-based model that called customers ‘passengers’ won’t suffice. The competitive edge for an airline will come in seeing the world through the customer’s eyes, and looking at all the extra information, guidance, and support to help the customer navigate the new world of travel. Airlines will have to focus on identifying, understanding, and mastering the customer experience – the complete end-to-end journey that customers have with the airline – from the perspective of the customer.

Making a Commitment to Customer-Centricity
Many airlines talk about being customer-centric – or at least, how they want to be customer-centric. However, it’s not just a case of saying it or thinking about it. Creating customer-centric experiences requires a commitment to a strategy and structure, driving a customer-centric culture, and implementing the requisite resources, capabilities and processes.

Let’s look at the six steps and questions that airlines must ask to deliver a customer-centric strategy:

  1. Implement Customer-Centric Strategy, Leadership and Culture
    • Does your airline senior leadership team truly understand what they mean by customer-centricity across all functions?
    • Is this commitment communicated in a way that everyone, including staff, can understand?
  2. Customer-Centric Capabilities & Resources
    • Does your airline have the necessary resources and capabilities to deliver on customer-centricity? These resources are budget, people, systems and data.
    • How are your Customer-Centric capabilities being measured? Are there clear goals and KPIs to measure progress?
  3. Develop Customer-Centric Organisational Structures
    • Is the airline organisational structure built around serving customers or around operations?
    • What new structures can be created to revolve around customers?
  4. Customer Insight
    • Do you have systemic approaches, both quantitative and qualitative, to understand your customer and their (changing) needs?
    • Does your airline have the correct systems to keep a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences?
  5. Creating Customer-Centric Customer Experiences
    • Does your airline truly understand your customers’ journey, and where + when they interact with you?
    • Is your airline continually seeking to measure and improve those experiences?
  6. Create Customer-Centric Processes
    • Are your processes and policies (e.g. pricing, bundles, refunds etc) designed around your customers’ needs or around what the airline needs?
    • Customers now need digital, low-touch experiences: have you got the content, tools and delivery models in place to help consumers navigate engaging with your airline?

Summary

Airlines across the globe needed a jolt to rethink how they engage with customers.

Here at OpenJaw, we believe that customer-centricity can be the fresh approach that provides this, because it allows transformation that spans functional lines and changes the way people think and act. It is also a proven capability that has already delivered results in many other industries. The pandemic means that airlines are now called upon to take action and make the much-needed change happen.

Kieron Branagan
CEO, OpenJaw Technologies