Connected and Intelligent World of Digitally Transformed Airlines

Airline industry is the lifeline of a well-connected global economy. In this digital era, Airline industry is leading the transformation taking place, covering the front-end processes for personalized customer services to the back-end ensuring smooth operations. To differentiate services and stay competitive, airlines look to make personalized offerings to their customers – from acquiring, serving and retaining their customer base. Airlines are the front-runners of digital transformation in embracing a whole new way to engage with customers.

While copious amounts of information are being generated by multiple transaction systems of airlines, this information remains fragmented and poorly leveraged. Even today, many airlines still lack a single holistic view of their customers, working mostly in silos around people, processes and systems. This is where digital can help overcome these challenges. Because when leveraged correctly, digital brings clarity and control to establish the realistic business value and deliver strategic value to an organization.

It’s no secret that an integrated platform, shared skills & knowledge and mature optimization are the keys to success of the business. Digital is the chain between inventories, sales, marketing, pricing, supply chain, finance, human resources, social media and CRM with the underlying technologies of Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC).

According to studies:

  • 100% of airlines investing in mobile services
  • 27% of senior executives rate digital transformation as now being “a matter of survival.”
  • 76% of marketers think marketing has changed more in the past two years than the past 50.
  • 51% of senior executives believe it’s critical to implement digital transformation in the next 12 months
  • 97% of passengers bring a mobile device when travelling

Digital Transformation – A New Way of Working

Technological advancements in daily life have created massive opportunities for airlines to deliver differentiated services to customers. It’s an inter-connected and airlines need to have a foot-forward with thoughtful analysis from the enormous available data to define context, insight, intent and offering for the business success. Here’s deeper look at the SMAC opportunity.

Mobility: From apps for booking tickets to crew management, mobile apps services  have surged forward. The ‘MyTravel, MyWay’ is the latest mobility trend to impact travel. Its ‘adaptive’, and leverages data from “search, social, apps, content and context” to target individuals based on the right moment. With three core elements to adaptive mobility – “location, sensors and context” it’s imperative to include a strategy that utilizes personalization, socialization and mobilization in end-to-end travel.

When seamlessly leveraged with intelligent automation of services, technology and people, the impact of mobility in travel is undeniable. Similarly, many airline apps will offer trip searches and booking, on-the-go ancillary purchases, or manage irops more efficiently with digital. The data thus aggregated can be further leveraged. And the actions of all these activities, behaviors and profiles turns into a rich data repository, giving rise to Analytics.

Profiling behavior with Analytics: Technology is enabling airlines to understand and leverage collective intelligence or behavior aggregated from search results, internal data, mobile applications and social media and user-generated data, intelligent virtual/digital assistants, and location-based applications. This data is further analyzed to fine-tune offerings around individual customers. For eg: United Airlines (via Alex) and Alaska Airlines (via Jenn) use enhanced conversational avatars online, to interact with customers, answer questions, and assist with the booking process.

When a traveller interacts with these digital assistants, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) programming uses sophisticated algorithms to learn from data input and become better at predicting the end user’s needs. These new data-driven communication solutions aim to create sustainable relationships with travellers. The times are changing fast, and upcoming digital assistants will be built with more advanced cognitive computing technologies which will allow a digital assistant to understand and carry out multi-step requests and perform more complex tasks helping the customers to make complex reservations and to provide more personalized services. With cognitive computing having entered the fray, the days of digital/virtual assistant equipped with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and voice recognition technology is actually thriving.

Powering up on Social: Social channels have seen phenomenally adoption by the airlines and are a significant part of communication strategy including airline call center services. Be it brand building, managing irregular operations, or managing customer service calls; social media is playing a key role in generating significant amount of business for airlines. There’s an 87% increase in non-voice customer service engagements which includes social and digital. Providing instant communications and service via social has become critical lever in a world that is always ‘connected’.

Some leading airlines in engaging the passengers through social media with high primacy:
• KLM @klm – 2.01 million Twitter followers
• Jet Blue @JetBlue – 1.98 million Twitter followers
• Southwest Airlines @SouthwestAir – 1.94 million Twitter followers
• Air Asia@AirAsia- 1.92 million Twitter followers
• American Airlines @AmericanAir – 1.24 million Twitter followers

The rise of Cloud: To manage the rapid business growth, cloud plays the underlying platform for most of the organizations. The changing trend from traditional PC and server-based applications to hosted Web applications is made possible by cloud computing whose benefits include business agility, connectivity, scalability, dynamic provisioning and per-use pricing.

From acquiring information on consumer behavior, this technology also help airlines to implement their digitized business strategies. For internal planning, airlines are working towards the integrated and holistic service offerings with its alliance partners. And to achieve the improvised internal planning, it becomes imperative to monitor the critical KPIs.

To stay ahead of competition and gain a good market position, it is critical for the airlines to successfully implement new technologies and think ‘unique’ to transform their business ‘smartly’.

About the Author: 
aarti saxena.igt

Aarti Saxena is a Manager Consulting with IGT helping airlines, travel and hotel customers worldwide to optimize IT and business processes. She has been associated with IGT for more than 8 years now and her area of expertise also includes implementing BI/DW and digital initiatives for airlines/travel customers. She is an integral part of Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Business Consulting at IGT.