How can you stabilize and rebuild customer confidence during and after the Corona crisis?
Maintaining a trusting relationship with customers particularly in times of extensive uncertainty, is a key driver of business success and airlines need to focus on the long-term and lifetime value of their customers by proving to them that they care.
There is a broad consensus that the passengers’ needs and preferences will change substantially due to the pandemic. And even more, the end-to-end experience may have forever changed. Therefore, airlines are requested to incorporate these developments into their offered services, products and processes all along the customer value chain.
Airlines as well as other market players of the value chain (airports, tour operators, etc.) are required to develop new approaches to adapt to changed customer demands and new health issues (e.g. concept of social distancing, increased sanitization, queuing management etc.) in order to bring back customer confidence. It must be also expected that new governmental regulations will be adopted which influence the Customer Experience. It is likely that e.g., social distancing will become a longer-term feature in passengers’ lives.
Obviously, the typical Customer Experience approach needs to be adjusted in the current pandemic crisis. A suitable approach can not only secure customer satisfaction but also has to rebuild customers’ confidence and offers cash-out opportunities that can be addressed during these unprecedented times.
We recommend the following approach in the current situation focusing on the stabilization of customer experience during the crisis and restoring customer confidence for crisis recovery:
1. Stabilize Customer Experience:
- Verify crisis-related communication strategy along focal points: It is imperative to keep the customers informed along the crucial focal points through the various channels used for effective communication. Therefore, an efficient and frequent communication is one of the main important aspects when it comes to successfully cope with crisis. It is now important to especially manage the critical touchpoints and adjust the communication accordingly. It is thus necessary to find out which customer touchpoints are crucial/ particularly important (e. g. booking, planning, service, etc.) and which areas are negligible during the crisis (e. g. inspiration phase, searching, etc.). Furthermore, the most effective communication channels with the widest customer reach have to be identified in order to set up a sustainable crisis-related communication strategy.
- Process design for balanced customer service support: During this turbulent and unprecedented situation the customer’s physical or digital interaction with the airlines differs considerably from times of regular operations. Especially during the crisis the customer service and contact centers are one of the hardest-hit departments with dramatically increasing call volumes. It is essential for an airline to reply with a suitable process design in order to balance customer services while minimizing airline’s effort and expenditures.
- Plan for short-term compensation and financial liquidity protection: The protection of airlines’ liquidity is one of the most important aims during this crisis. It is necessary to identify actions to secure liquidity by avoiding cash outs as well as maintain customer satisfaction. Airlines have to implement compensation measures e.g. vouchers instead of ticket refunds which balances both topics.
- Concept for mobilization of contactless and self-service capabilities: Before the coronavirus outbreak hit, many airlines were already initiating major digital transformation projects. Consolidating these activities and further automating as many passenger processes as possible through contactless, self-service technologies will be vital for the airlines’ reaction to the crisis and their future.
Now, though, airlines should already be thinking of what the period will mean for their customer once global air travel is able to resume. It is essential to reimagine what the new reality will look like. The airline with the best tailored respond will succeed and regain customers. Therefore, in a second step airlines should examine following areas
2. Restoring consumer confidence and rebuild loyalty:
- Voice of customer: customer survey to point out the changing customer needs and target groups: The biggest barrier is usually the lack of a deep understanding of the customers’ needs and paint points. Airlines need to ask the customer for their opinion without projecting theirs.
- Road Map for enhanced customer experience: Airlines need to reposition themselves in the market and develop a set of measures tailored to their strategy. Especially airlines have to react to the changed customer behavior and adapt their customer journey accordingly.
- Customer interaction plan for service ramp-up: In times of ramp-up it is crucial for airlines to stimulate demand and attract customers. Therefore all customer interactions have to be aligned in order to generate revenue and compete in the market.
- Repository concept for service disruption measures: The learnings during crisis are elementary to prepare for future disruption scenarios. These valuable insights and finding should be used to derive measures to enhance processes, services and products to be prepared for the future.
Doubtless, it may take several months to reach the pre-crisis passenger volume, and the whole travel and airline industry may not record pre-coronavirus traffic volumes soon. Nevertheless, airlines and all other market operators must develop besides a long-term strategy, short-term measures in order to support secure consumer confidence now. When airlines fail to adapt and don’t change with shifts in customer demands, they have a high risk of failing. Let's support you by ensuring that all concepts are well placed once the demand for air travel returns.
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Besides Customer Experience, we also offer support in the areas of Ops Control, Network Planning, Maintenance and Cyber Security to help your airline navigate through the challenging times due to the Corona crisis. We have several experts with up to 40 years of real airline experience, who steered world-leading airlines through many crises. We are also sure that this is not the last crisis to come and that every airline should be best prepared – something that we can help you with.
Interested in a free online conference, where some of our experts will share their crisis experience with you. Join one of our next sessions.