Whether it’s in-flight services, check in processes or call centers, operations are a major cost center for airlines - and they’re crying out for improvement. Indeed, according to Mckinsey, some 45% of an airline’s cost structure consists of these kinds of tasks and processes, many of which are still managed in a fairly traditional and manual manner. So even a minor improvement in the way they’re run could have an enormous impact on efficiency and customer satisfaction - and data analytics technology could play a big hand in helping this.
However, in this series of blogs about the implications of airlines becoming data-driven, we’ve seen that becoming a truly data-driven organization is about much more than ‘just’ introducing new data analytics software (although that’s evidently a key step). Rather, the true benefits will only be achieved when airlines take a whole new look at their processes in order to take advantage of the opportunities that the technology offers.
Let’s look at three areas that airlines can change their operational processes to incorporate the potential that data analytics presents.
In-flight services cover a range of activities, including seat reallocation, personalized greetings from staff and assistance for VIP or people with disabilities. Today, the management of most of these processes is still effectively manual - very often staff are simply expected to notice the needs of passengers or respond to specific requests.
The irony is that, in many cases, airlines already hold the data they need to offer these services more effectively, but they are not using them. To benefit from the insights that the data offers, they must change their processes. Let’s see what this might look like:
Being data-driven: connecting call center agents with the right information
In many airlines, call center staff continue to be the frontline of dispute resolution. However, very often these frontline staffs have very little information on the customer they’re speaking to - other than perhaps some notes in a CRM.
Once again, the irony is that airlines collect so much data they could quite easily connect this much more seamlessly to help call center staff truly understand the customer and their relationship to the airline - they’re just not managing to stitch together that data. Let’s see how this could be improved.
A customer is calling up to complain about perceived poor service by one of your onboard staff, making various allegations about mistreatment.
Another key area of airline operations is customer communications when passengers are late. At present, the only way airlines can really contact these travellers is through announcements over the airport’s speakers - an approach with many obvious limitations.
The good news is that the data that airlines hold means they often have everything they need to communicate with late passengers already. Let’s see how this might work.
Operations are an ideal place for airlines to begin instigating their data-driven strategy, by using technology which connects data from across their systems to make these processes work more effectively. However, as we’ve seen, simply adding new tech is only part of the solution - just as important is the need to change existing processes (and in some cases, hiring people to make these changes) to make use of the potential that the tech offers.