By far the biggest customer service horror stories for 2017 has been dominated by the airline industry. Airline customer satisfaction continues its steep descent (no pun intended) – from skyrocketing fares, nearly nonexistent leg room to actual PR nightmares. Meanwhile, domestic and international air travel just hit an all-time high. A total of 928.9 million travelers flew on American and foreign carriers in 2016, showing a 3.3% rise in domestic flights and a 4% increase in foreign flights to and from the US (Department of Transportation).
To improve brand reputation and rebuild consumer trust, airlines must ’go the extra mile’ and provide travelers with better customer service, from the moment they book their flights until they arrive at their final destination. There’s much work to be done, but here are three important starting points.
Provide an omnichannel experience
According to a survey from Aspect Software, 64% of consumers say that customer service should be able to seamlessly move from one communication option to another, but just 27% of airline execs say their company actually delivers the omnichannel experience. The traveling customer needs easy–and quick–access to customer service anytime. Being able to reach an agent via phone, web chat, text or app is crucial when you’re racing against the clock to make a flight. And don’t forget about social; Twitter has become the preferred point for customers to blast both positive and negative experiences. Maintaining a strong social presence is crucial to providing omnichannel communication.
Let customers DIY
Not every query requires a conversation. Nearly 3 out of 4 consumers would prefer to be able to solve customer service issues themselves (Aspect Software). We already know that when you’re traveling, time is of the essence. A simple text message notification for a flight delay can save a passenger hours of sitting in an airport. Making it easy for customers to address their concerns from selecting a seat or tracking a checked bag, or being able to communicate with customer service agents via texting creates a more seamless and pleasant experience.
Accenture Consulting found that airlines are focusing on digital sophistication to improve customer experience (Accenture). Case in point: app capabilities that allow for fast flight changes, or even show you the location of your baggage carousel, let the customer skip waiting around in long lines. Let customers take control with digital and physical self-service options.
Empower customer service employees
At the end of the day, technology can only take the airline industry (or any industry, really) so far. Yes, self-check-in kiosks save time, but with so many variables at any given moment, communicating with an agent is sometimes necessary. Customer service teams should be equipped with the tools and information they need to tend to travelers’ queries and concerns. Providing proper training and carefully structuring management teams are at the foundation of providing a positive customer experience.
The summer travel chaos is still hot, but fall is a great time for airlines to regroup and focus on customer service improvements before the holiday season hits.