‘A successful airline will be one that makes the most of the existing customer data’ – suggests a recent study completed by Basanta KumarKabi and Prof M.Sajnani. Well, that seems fairly straight forward doesn’t it? If airlines personalise their sales, and create loyalty programmes utilizing what they already know about their clientèle, then sales and customer attachment will also rise. So why aren’t more airlines doing this? And in what ways can those who are doing it, do it better? This was one of the core round table discussions which took place at the World Low Cost Airline Congress this year, led by Aero Mexico’s Edouard Piquet.
Piquet kicked off the conversation by stating – ‘We are not using customer data (CRM) in the best way – there are opportunities to do it better.’ In elaborating on that, it is important we address what exactly airlines are trying to achieve in using CRM. Firstly, whilst happy to attract new customers, it is primarily used as a marketing tool which develops a relationship with the existing customer, keeping them loyal, and therefore ensuring they continue to return. To quote KumarKabi and Sajnani; ‘Customer relationship management can be defined as a business model that has, as it principal goal, the identification, anticipation and understanding of the needs of potential and current customer, to increase retention, growth and profitability.’
In kicking that idea around the round table, several thoughts of how CRM could be used by airlines sprang up. Anton Vidgen, Air Canada Rouge vice-president of corporate development suggested one way his airline are trying to do it; ‘If we know it’s someone’s birthday on the airplane, we can make their flight extra special. We trying to figure how technology can augment that. It would certainly help customer satisfaction. But there are challenges of privacy.’ This is an interesting perspective on the idea of CRM – can it sometimes come too close to breeching customer privacy? It is a matter that is certainly worth thinking about.
In a conclusive outlook on how airlines are using customer data, Piquet stated; “CRM is like teenage sex, everybody thinks everyone is doing it but nobody is.”
What are your thoughts on this discussion? In a market, where competition is rapidly increasing, will it be a question of grasp customer loyalty or disappear? Or, whilst important, are there biggest issues that need to be confronted when it comes to the passenger experience.