With their air mile schemes and frequent flyer programmes, airlines have long been a frontrunner in the kind of personalised service delivery which has become an increasingly mainstream expectation in the customer service experience.
But what may once have seemed a trailblazing initiative in the halcyon days of 80s travel, is no longer enough to cut it in the modern airline operating environment, where a number of factors are conspiring to transform the scope and channel of service delivery as well as the competitive landscape.
Precipitated in part by the cost-cutting price war sparked by the budget airlines and the explosion in agile travel start-ups, whose personalised offerings have raised the game in terms of service expectations, incumbents now face a stark choice.
Put simply they must either compete on price or steer their efforts more aggressively to leverage digital opportunities across multiple channels to provide the kind of added value services which will differentiate their offering in a crowded market. It’s a dilemma that is seeing more players from low cost to premium airlines switch their focus to creating an interesting customer experience to better engage with millennials, attract and fully reap the awards of an ever more interconnected world.
And the implications are far reaching. The battle to reach these customer touch points demands an integrated and digital transformation which in many cases leads to the repositioning of the entire revenue model. The growing prominence of an API management platform is a case in point.
We’re seeing almost every industry now leveraging APIs to drive a more seamless experience for users and bring information from the core to the edge of the enterprise to deliver data capabilities where and when they’re needed. The development is particularly evident in the retail sector, where growth is now coming from digital channels rather than the traditional brick and mortar operations. For example, Snapchat, Instagram or Pinterest become the first port of call for customer engagement so when the user sees a picture they like they can click on it, arrive at the website and make a purchase instantly.
Back to airlines. APIs are driving this flexibility and immersive approach to service, by providing a more accessible and agile interface between the airline and third party innovation to expand the scope of offering. As a result, this is transforming how products are promoted and sold to leisure and business travellers while tackling the inherent complexity of accessing data in an airline’s system which is not usually consumable from outside the eco system or without in-depth sector knowledge.
By storing and centralising passenger data from the airline’s back end system through a dedicated portal based on TIBCO Mashery API management for example, third party developers can access and integrate this data within their apps based on defined preferences to target a ready-made user base of passengers while delivering the omni-channel, hyper-connected and real time experience customers now expect.
The impact is often profound because third parties so often bring new and in many cases, more engaging ways to interact with the customer or supply chain because they are approaching a problem or opportunity with fresh eyes and a new perspective.
From onboard Wi-Fi to enabling passengers to pre-order their food and upgrade their seats while in the check-in queue, itinerary options via Yelp and Facebook recommendations, smart home apps that heat up your house based on the estimated time of arrival, the opportunities for enhancing the passenger journey through added value services appear to be limitless. Then there are the apps that know when there is insufficient time to get to the airport and send messages to your car to rebook the flight. The potential is wide and far reaching and as more and more systems come into play daily and more devices connect to the web, APIs will remain at the heart of this interconnection to provide a personalised and proactive experience for the user.
Fasten your seatbelts this is going to be a very eventful ride.