LONDON: The airline industry competes fiercely on price, but as air travel has become a commodity even budget airlines are having to rethink their customer experience as a way of differentiating the brand.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, Rob Curran, head of customer experience at Wunderman UK, reports that airline brands are fertile ground for exploring the customer experience, because “they are missing opportunities to create remarkable, memorable experiences”.

That assessment is based on Wunderman’s research in this area, including a survey of the flying experience of 2,000 Britons and fieldwork by its own CX team.

“From the booking, to check-in, to managing the experience gate-side, to the boarding process, to finding one’s seat, to the cabin crew and the in-flight service, there are many touchpoints and instances where airlines could go the extra mile and beyond,” Curran says.

So, for example, more than a third (37%) of respondents in Wunderman’s survey believed the boarding process and their seat – such as its location and the amount of legroom available – contributed to a negative experience.

Given that the seat will be the immediate experience for passengers for the duration of their flight, Curran notes that “ it is amazing to see just how little airlines do to make the most of this controlled environment”.

A collection of apparently minor irritations can combine to create a significant negative impact on customer experience, he says, adding that airlines are failing to keep aligned with the rising bar consumers are setting for their interactions with brands.

Airline staff are the top-ranked factor influencing a positive flight (cited by almost half of respondents), but “there is no real effort to capture this and use it to inform the service delivered across the brand and through different touchpoints,” Curran reports.

The current volume-based sales tactics of budget airlines, which demand payment for everything extra, are based on preying on customer fears to maximise returns, but he argues that airlines need to “turn this on its head by framing their initial relationship with the customer in a positive way from the point of booking”.

Making passengers’ booking and subsequent travel easier and more pleasurable will build greater loyalty and can in turn form a baseline relationship from where airlines can go above and beyond expectation and create memorable impact.

Sourced from Admap