Need I say Moores

A little trust goes a long way

When a passenger flies, they feel disempowered and over-regulated. The trust is missing on both sides. Can airlines take tips from companies like Airbnb to make the customer experience better?

Airlines have had a lot of negative PR lately. They are seen as rule-driven penny pinchers, trying to squeeze every last dollar out of the passenger for services which used to be free (the fact that air fares are lower than ever tends to be overlooked). In passengers’ eyes, the humanity is lacking.

Airbnb head of global customer experience Aisling Hassell summed up the problem at the Future Travel Experience Europe (FTE Europe) conference in Dublin.

“Travel is sick. We have to get back the essence of travel. It should be magical and it should be easy. The magic should come from people and the easy should come from companies like ourselves. We’re trying to put people back into equation, where sometimes they have been removed. Our hosts are at the core of what we do,” she said.

More importantly, she said Airbnb is “built on trust and very much community based.” This set me thinking about how trust could be revived between airlines and their passengers.

Trust can take many forms. Dublin Airport has a stand selling bottles of water after security for €1, based on an honesty system. This means passengers don’t have to queue up in a shop. “More importantly, it gives our customers the view that we trust them,” Dublin airport managing director Vincent Harrison said, also speaking at FTE.

How can airlines demonstrate to passengers that they trust them? I don’t have the answer to this question, but it is definitely something airlines should be thinking about as part of their customer service strategy.

Another trust-related theme that repeatedly came up at FTE was the age-old question of who owns the passenger – and their data. Customers are the ones missing out because their service providers refuse to trust one another, work together and share.

“The customer is one single common interest we should focus on,” FTE founder Daniel Coleman said.

Everyone agrees data has a critical role to play in personalizing the customer experience. With data, staff can be empowered and the customer experience can be vastly improved. But nobody wants to share. Every stakeholder fights for their own self-interest.

“We all want to own the customer, but nobody owns the customer. We can all own part of the journey, but to be really effective we all need to work together,” Datalex CTO Blair Koch said.

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@penton.com

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