The airline business has evolved. Once female passengers wore soft dresses and men donned jackets and ties. Now people fly with comfortable clothes like flip-flops and Lululemon Yoga pants. The airline’s golden age lasted about three decades. Starting in the 50’s, it ended with the deregulation act of 1978.This was the earthquake that changed the business. The law deregulated the industry in the United States, removing U.S. Federal Government control over fares, routes and market entry of new airlines and ushered in free markets.
Before deregulation, airline marketers tried hard to separate themselves. In the 1950’s multiple airlines introduced bunk beds with curtains. Qantas upped everyone with its kangaroo soup and fresh lobster tails. With the advent of the British Airways Concorde, passengers were treated to free Cuban cigars and Sevruga caviar. In the 70’s, American Airlines flew with Wurlitzer organs. In the 80’s, Continental had pubs and video game consoles.
Free markets ended these promotions and brought us an era of low fares, cramped seats, surly flight attendants and endless security lines. Today’s cheap flights have claimed many victims. We have seen the bankruptcy of Pan Am, Eastern, and Braniff. The price era means everyone flies for the cost of bus fare.
But competitive rates and more access to more places globally has led to the highest use of air transportation in history. Consider this:
-Each year commercial aviation drives more than $1.3 trillion in economic activity
-Commercial Aviation is now 5.6% of US GDP
-Although digital communications is common practice worldwide, face to face deal-making is still considered essential to a profitable business-regardless of where in the world you are.
But with the ubiquitous use of air transportation, are airlines meeting the needs of the consumer? Maybe not. Here are a few key findings from a 2017 study on airline satisfaction by Clarabridge.
- Consumers believe airlines are not listening. 69% and 73% of U.S. and U.K. consumers respectively have never submitted a complaint, nor delivered feedback to an airline company. Within both markets, about two-thirds of all consumers report that even when they do deliver feedback on their experience, complaints go unrecognized or unaddressed. This suggests that it is imperative for airlines to accurately collect and respond to feedback to ensure customers know they are being heard and that their feedback is being acted upon in order to provide the best possible travel experience.
- Attitude matters. Flight staff and crew attitude drive loyalty even more than affordable flights. In the U.S., 38% of customers are loyal to a particular airline based on how they are treated, compared to 35% of customers who choose their airlines based on price. Friendly staff is more indicative of whether or not an individual recommends an airline to a future traveler, with 33% of all U.K. customers citing it as the primary reason for their recommendation. Therefore, airlines must use the customer voice to adjust their policies, procedures and training and encourage the entire organization—from teams both in the sky and back at headquarters—to instill a culture of friendliness and positivity so that customers keep coming back.
- It’s time to improve digital feedback channels. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, customers expressed a preference for digital feedback. Of the customers that do provide feedback, 46% and 42% in the U.K. and U.S. do so by email, and 13% and 11%, respectively, by social media. Across both markets, more than half of all customers utilize digital tools to comment on their experience. In the U.K. only 1 in 10 complaints actually involves a human interaction. In conjunction with an increase in digital feedback, the data suggests that airlines must improve and invest in the technical infrastructure necessary to support customer complaints via digital means, be it on social media or in-app. This will not only satisfy customers but also reduce the weight and cost of in-person channels.
The data from the survey proves something that we as consumers instinctively know. When someone listens to us and expresses even the slightest bit of understanding and compassion, we tend to hold that person or institution in higher regard. And that’s why Voice of the Customer https://www.clarabridge.com/voice-of-the-customer can be so valuable for the airline industry.
As we experience the current economic upturn and markets expand we believe the airline industry is well positioned. Global trade means more people will need to get to more faraway places than ever before. And, more flights in business class means more expensive tickets sold. Airlines are also experiencing greater profitability through their most important physical asset, their airplanes. Better technology, more fuel efficient and safer planes are helping to control costs and make the actual flying experience more enjoyable. Add to this experience, the nationwide push to upgrade airports into user-friendly destinations and air travel becomes more appealing.
Just imagine if the airlines actively integrated the wants and needs of their customer s with regularity and let their customers know that they are listening- the sky would be the limit.
Chief Creative Officer
the damien harvey group