Airline Travel Will Never Be the Same – Part 2
Bruno Trimouille 27000256KU firstname.lastname@example.org |
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Sidebar. A few weeks have gone by since my last post and to tell you the truth I had a smooth and eventless business trip last week. I was at IMPACT 2011 in
As mentioned in my previous post, my smart phone is loaded with travel apps. The goal: Avoiding travel disruptions and optimizing my transit time to and from an airport.
Witness – Making my flight: My return flight was at the end of a busy work day and I was arguing with a colleague about when to leave for the airport because I didn’t want to cut my meeting short with unnecessary buffer; but I didn’t want to miss my flight either. But I felt empowered by the amount of information at my fingertips. Think about it: 1000s of smart phone apps now in the travel section giving you real time access to flight departure tracking, driving conditions, security line tracking, walking time to the gate, and so on. And even though you have to check out several apps to connect the dots, this level of data in real time is great for decision making. So I was able to plan, with relative precision, my transit time from office to the departure gate. On the downside I had to manually check all data every 20 minutes or so to avoid any last minute surprises. Despite this minor distraction, I managed to get to the gate right on-time and avoided getting stranded overnight while saving face with my colleague. One of my travel apps even gave me the location of a Jamba Juice in the terminal. Too bad I didn’t have any real time, loyalty coupons on my smart phone, something we now call Smarter Commerce – more on that in a future post.
So, what’s my point? Beyond instrumentation, there’s a missing element here: decision automation. The gathering and tracking of unexpected disruptions is highly manual, relying on user tenacity. Wouldn’t it be great, for example, if there was a rule-based agent that could send a proactive notification of a car accident on the way to the airport that was causing an unexpected delay? Good news: This is the next step in smarter travel -- having a personalized agent constantly looking on your behalf at large amounts of instrumented data and enacting decisions at all phases of travel, including post-travel customer service.
Witness – Dealing with customer service: My return flight was a code share with an airline I fly often which happens to have an automatic upgrade policy for its frequent flyers. Upon boarding, on my way to coach, I saw that business class was half-empty. Because of my frequent flyer status with this airline I was expecting an offer to move to business class before the doors closed. But this didn’t happen. In fact, someone else seated a few rows behind me was upgraded and the plane lifted off with empty seats in business class.
To avoid making a fuss on the plane, I bit the bullet, but, honestly, I was fuming and feeling a sense of entitlement. Amazing how obnoxious frequent travelers can be sometimes. I contacted customer service as soon as I landed, even crafted the email in-flight. Within an hour I received an email response back – even before reading the response, I was impressed. It was a well-crafted letter, each word was meaningful. As it turned out, I wasn’t entitled to an upgrade because of code share. However, because the policy was about to change in the next few months, I was awarded some miles as compensation for the “inconvenience” even though I was not (yet) entitled to such service. Wow, I was blown away, pleasantly.
What’s the tie in with decision management? Well, a number of airlines and other leading corporations in financial service, retail and communications are now using decision management to supplement their customer service/call center platform. Dynamic routing (my request was processed in record time, much faster than the average 24H service level agreement), interactive dialogs or personalized emails driven by rules (assembling content picked from experts in real time based on current situation) and compensation selection & configuration (miles as compensation offer vs. something else like a free pass to lounge, plus deciding on the right number of miles for my specific context and inconvenience) are among a few of the decisions that are routinely delivered in real time. This kind of decision support helps even the most novice customer service agent act like a pro which translates into greater customer satisfaction.
My top takeaway: Beyond yield management, decision management is helping airlines revolutionize customer relationship and revenue management. From an architecture standpoint, the high level of instrumented data along with real time and highly personalized decisioning are the basis of this revolution. On the business side, it is all about putting business users in the driver seat with simplicity, ease of use and the right governance – e.g. the ability to define, test and update such decisions in hours vs. months.
Feel free to contact me to share your travel tips and tricks and best smart phone app. I look forward to your contribution to make travel a breeze.