News reels and column inches are filled with tired and disappointed passengers, driven to despair by customer service staff who can’t tell them what’s going on, or faced with contradictory information coming from airlines, airports and ground handlers. The reputational impact for the airline industry is huge, yet nothing ever seems to change.
Of course, the fault doesn’t lie with the customer service staff at any touchpoint, who do the best they can under very difficult circumstances. Nor does it lie with the operational teams, which are doing their utmost to keep the show on the road. Instead, the problem comes down to how information is captured, recorded and shared between teams at the airline, airport and the ground handlers, as well as more widely throughout the airport ecosystem, including restaurant, hotels and transfers. That comes down to existing legacy systems and communication technologies, that are unable to transfer the information needed for teams to manage disruptions and interact with the customer in real-time. Current ways of working are simply not fit to deliver the kind of experience that today’s customers expect.
The nature of air transport means that numerous teams are involved in the customer experience, across airlines, airports and ground operations. Within airlines, the operations department – or operational control centre - is responsible for directing activity in real-time, from managing catering suppliers, to ensuring planes are turned around on time, and making necessary announcements to waiting passengers. Then on the other side of the equation, there are the customer care teams, usually a call centre and claims service, who deal with real-time customer enquiries, along with historical compensation claims, related to disruption, cancellations and other irregularities. Then you also have the wider ecosystem to consider, such as hotels, restaurants, transfers, airport authorities, and more.
Yet, despite their vital role in delivering a smooth passenger experience, both during and in the days, weeks or months following travel, customer care teams have a very low visibility on flight and passenger data, including flight traffic management systems, departure control services, flight scheduling, Type B messaging, ACARs data, and any reports coming from the teams and subcontractors. This gap is exacerbated during high traffic periods when reporting on passenger disruptions is often sporadic, incomplete, or takes place via email, telephone or walkie-talkie, making it almost impossible for the details to be shared more widely or recorded effectively for reference later.
This fundamental breakdown in communication, caused by a spaghetti of inefficient systems, is causing wholly avoidable frustration for passengers and giving airlines, and the industry as a whole, a bad name. Not only that, but it also costs money in customer complaints management and compensation when a simple irregularity turns to a long and complex investigation, due to miscommunication - further impacting customer loyalty.
What is needed is a central collaborative platform, where all those involved in the passenger experience have visibility of real-time events as they happen, enabling them to respond appropriately and provide the most up-to-date information to those waiting to start their journeys.
Here at Deolan, we’re on a mission to fill this communication gap, with our new collaboration platform, Logbook. Incorporating intuitive features inspired by social media, operational teams simply log events on the shared wall as they happen, to be accessed instantly by their colleagues in the customer service team. So, when passengers get in touch or approach staff asking for information, either in real-time or at a later date, the details are all there on the system, easily searchable by tag. The result is instant answers, no more frustration and an improved, seamless passenger experience all round.