The airline industry was once flying high, both literally and metaphorically. The demand for air travel was touching the sky and everything looked so hunky-dory. Fliers were getting value for money and the industry felt on cloud nine.
And then Covid-19 happened. It changed everything overnight. Travel restrictions were imposed and it saw a big surge in cancellations that brought some really serious challenges for customer service teams. Obviously, the pandemic also necessitated the need for new measures in servicing customers and meeting their needs in the changed circumstances.
With the changed scenario, it was also time to set examples of excellent customer service in the airline industry. It was perhaps the time to show the world how the aviation industry was meant to fly, always. And the industry took the challenge on its chin and rose to the occasion like never before.
The great customer service that the airline sector is synonymous with was restored and gradually things started getting back to normal. The dangers may not have subsided completely but the turnaround in servicing customers is surely the milestone of recent times.
In this blog post, we will look at some of the great examples of customer service for both pre and post-pandemic times and see how they impact/ed the flying experience.
But before moving ahead with the main theme, it would be good if we understood the need for customer service in the aviation sector and analyzed its deep impact on the industry.
What Makes Customer Service Excellent for the Airline Industry?
More than 66% of companies across industries now compete mainly on the basis of customer experience, and the airline industry is no different. Having said that, many elements obviously make up the crux of great customer service for the airline industry that can make or break the kind of experience fliers will have with an airline.
In general, excellent customer service in the airline industry constitutes these aspects, including –
- Ease of booking tickets – Customer experience starts with the ticket booking stage itself. And when a flier finds it easy to reserve their seat on the flight, it should be considered good service.
- Use of digital technology in delivering tickets on mobile – Now when 84% of companies focusing on the mobile customer experience, few airlines still play by the old rule and send the booked tickets to the mail. Only some are using digital technology to deliver the tickets across channels, particularly on WhatsApp, and making things easier for customers.
- Hassles with check-in process – No flier would wish to face hassles with the check-in process but the reality is far from different. From calling passengers hours in advance to delaying the check-in process in the name of documentation, a lot can dilute the great experience flyers expect with an airline.
- Time taken in handing over the boarding pass – Yes, the more time an airline takes in handing over the boarding pass, the more likely it is to frustrate the fliers.
- Crew’s behavior towards the passenger – During a flight, a passenger may face various types of problems, be it related to seating arrangement or some request to food, etc. It’s ultimately the crew’s expertise and behavior in handling those matters that decide the level of customer experience for passengers.
- The kind of food provided during the flight – Food quality can also adversely impact the level and kind of in-flight customer service delivered to fliers.
- Delays in picking up the luggage at the destination– Ideally, a flyer should collect their luggage upon arrival within minutes so that they can make a breezy exit out of the airport. But not many airlines pay heed to this important aspect and thus they compromise the customer experience big time.
Importance of Customer Service in the Airline Industry
Booking a flight and flying to some destination has always been seen as a privilege. It’s a kind of luxury that most of us secretly wish to afford on a regular basis. And those who do often develop a taste that gradually morphs into lofty expectations. And airlines must meet those airy expectations in the form of excellent customer service to make the journey a truly once-in-a-life experience for flyers.
Maybe this deeply-ingrained need to feel special while flying has something to do with the great customer service that is always expected of the airline industry. But yes, delivering excellent customer service also has a huge role to play in the success of the aviation industry.
The role of customer service is indeed big for airlines for many reasons, including –
The market is ultra-competitive – Competition is immense in the airline industry where new ventures hit the ground running on a regular basis. Customer service emerges as the key differentiator between good and average companies in this cut-throat atmosphere.
Customer loyalty matters – When a flier gets a good experience at every stage of their journey with the airline, they feel happy and it creates good word-of-mouth for the business. The flier then becomes a repeat customer and this is how servicing could lead to building brand loyalty for the business.
Good customer service adds value – The scope of good customer service goes way beyond just guiding the passenger to their seat and providing them the food on time. Fliers will feel great if the crew goes above the board in taking care of their in-transit needs and making their journey as comfortable as it can get.
Revenue is based on the kind of customer service delivered – When an airline delivers great customer service, the impact is often visible to the bottom line. It then gets repeat customers which eventually adds to the revenue.
Some Examples of Excellent Customer Service in the Airline Industry
The airline industry is always synonymous with amazing customer service. Right from the early days, flying was considered a luxury purely for the kind of experiences made available to fliers. The trend of pampering the fliers is still in vogue though cases of an extreme and innovative form of customer service are only few and far between.
Some examples of excellent customer service in the airline industry include
1. United Airlines Holds Plane to Help a Passenger Say Goodbye to His Dying Mother
When we talk about customer service in the airline industry, nothing could beat the example that United Airlines set in 2013. The airline not only redefined the meaning of customer service but also went way beyond what any other organization would do.
As was the case, one fine morning, a passenger named Kerry Drake got the information that her mother was seriously ill and probably facing her final hours. So, he caught the next flight from San Francisco to Lubbock, Texas, via Houston. However, when his first flight was delayed, he literally broke down in tears on the plane itself, knowing he would not make it in time to catch the connecting flight.
When the flight crew came to know about him and his condition, they spoke to the captain who then spoke further to the concerned personnel of the next flight to delay the flight. And finally, the passenger was able to get on board and see his mother before she passed away.
2. Alaska Airlines Adopts Omnichannel Approach For Customer Communication
Flying with Alaska Airlines is nothing less than a treat and flyers who have availed it services always swear by the creative ways it uses for boosting in-flight customer experience. And if that was not enough, the airlines is among the few in the industry to use omnichannel communication for customer communication.
So, what does it mean?
To understand the point well, you should know how whenever someone heads to the Alaska Airlines website they find various ways to help. From an FAQ page to access a mobile app, and a direct line to the service team. On top of that, their website also has a Twitter account info with a dedicated 24×7 team.
They don’t stop here – the airline has an open CSAT survey on the website. And they use multiple channels to ask for customer satisfaction surveys. All this makes communication absolutely seamless for customers as they can easily reach the service team from their channel of choice and get help as and when needed.
3. British Airways Rises Above Cabin Distinction and Provides Reading Materials to All
Treating every passenger equally is always the hallmark of quality customer service. However, in the airline industry where cabin barrier often defines the quality of service, British Airways is one company that rises above the class barrier and provides quality reading material to everyone on board.
While many airlines pamper their business-class flyers with tons of amenities and facilities, they often don’t maintain the same level of standards with the Economy class. This is where the step by British Airways to provide free reading material to all passengers makes a cut.
So, irrespective of the cabin of travel, any flyer can pick newspapers and magazines near the boarding gate and get something to complement their journey well. And by making available the materials at the gate, the airline leaves it up to the passenger to choose rather than distributing themselves as it could be another hassle they avoid.
4. Portuguese National Airline, TAP, Reaches Out to a Customer Having Issues with Booking
Reaching out to an airline customer service agent via phone can be a painful experience. Sometimes it might take an eternity to have someone pick up your call and respond. But the case with the Portuguese National Airline, TAP, was different.
Once the support team of TAP airline did the unthinkable and went one step further – rather than waiting for the passenger to call, one agent took it upon himself to reach out to the troubled person and help him through the issue.
It all started when the person in question faced difficulty in booking a ticket as the website rejected three of his attempts while filling up the credit card details. Frustrated, he decided to seek help and then dialed up the service team and hoped for a long wait before getting some response.
To his surprise, the service team rep called back immediately on his phone and provided help as needed. This aptly shows how great examples of customer service in the airline industry do exist today as well.
5. Qatar Airways Creates a Fun and Engaging In-flight Environment for Kids
Flying with kids can be tough. And when it’s a long-haul flight, you can expect the plight to be even worse for parents. Not only parents, but kids can sometimes create problems for co-passengers as well. Cases are galore where some unruly youngsters and their antics made the entire journey bad for everyone.
Qatar Airways understands that risk and maybe that’s why its customer service attempts on the long-route network consider kids and their needs as well. It knows how kids often feel bored on a long flight in the lack of any activity beyond mobile entertainment. So, it decided to infuse some fun and engagement into the journey to keep children hooked and busy.
For kids, the airline has three special measures – first, it has a dedicated IEF channel with specifically selected videos; second, it hands out toy sets, books, and color pages; and third, it delivers a special lunch box to kids.
6. Garuda, the Flag Carrier of Indonesia, Takes Care of “Visa on Arrival” Needs in the Flight Itself
Many popular countries still require foreign tourists to get visas on arrival. While the intention is right, the process generally takes a lot of time, which somehow affects the otherwise good experiences passengers might have with the airline.
Garuda Airlines understood this problem so it decided to offer immigration on-board services to their flights to Jakarta. Needless to say, this service has eased a lot of the burden on passengers who can now get help from immigration officers on board and save a great deal of time with the process.
7. Cathay Pacific is Using Conversational AI to Enhance the Digital Experience for Customers
AI-powered chatbots are now a key addition to many airlines to supplement customer engagement channels and ensure great services to flyers.
The example of Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong Airline, shows how using chatbots to automate tasks could ensure value to not only customers but can also save time for the support team.
According to the airline, more than half of its customer care chats are now handled by AI chatbots, which is quite impressive by any yardstick. The best part, the company is leveraging those conversations to boost the accuracy of AI chatbots so that it can deliver even better digital experiences to customers.
Leverage the REVE’s AI Platform and Bolster Customer Service in the Airline Industry
Excellent customer service never happens by chance. It involves some planning and the willingness to go the extra mile so that passengers can feel great.
We, at REVE, understand how AI chatbots could be pivotal in your company’s effort in boosting customer service for flyers and delivering them the kind of experiences they covet.
With our platform, you can develop a bot in tune with the specific needs of your business and start adding value to each aspect of customer service.
You can find more engagement tools such as video chat and co-browsing software to complement your service effort.
What’s more, you can always use the chatbot in combination with our feature-rich live chat software and take a huge step toward offering 24×7 support to flyers.
Add Excellence to Your Airlines Customer Service with REVE and Keep Pace with Time
Customer service in the airline industry should always be excellent else flyers might feel less happy than they otherwise do while flying.
With the REVE platform, you can find a whole lot of AI-powered and advanced engagement tools that can contribute massively to your effort to deliver amazing services.
You can start free trial of our chatbot and even test out other tools and see how they could fit well into your company’s customer service needs.