Need I say Moores

​Make it easy; make it different

More and more passengers are looking for ‘business as unusual’ from companies. They want their experience to be easy, different, human…and cheap.

“People don’t notice things that are the same; they notice things which are different.” I don’t remember where I first heard this quote, but it’s true.

That’s bad news for the cookie-cutter airline experience…or is it? When there is little differentiation, it doesn’t take much to differentiate.

Norwegian has used free Wifi on short-haul to be different. Having WiFi – paid or unpaid - is still rare on short-haul European flights. But it strikes me as odd that they haven’t transferred this unique selling point to their long-haul flights too. Norwegian’s Boeing 787s don’t have WiFi.

Being different doesn’t need to be complex. KLM has used social media to stand apart. After a few one-off social media projects, the Dutch airline was fuelled by a desire to be different and is now using artificial intelligence (AI) to create a balance between IT-driven personalization and a human experience. This sounds an awful lot like PR speak. It’s not.

“Bots and AI are bad for quite a lot of cases, but you would be stupid to not use it for some others. Technology is no longer problem. We want to combine the best of both worlds,” KLM social media development manager Martine van der Lee told the Future Travel Experience (FTE), Europe conference in Dublin.

“What will remain of your brand, if you are only a name, a price and a schedule? People are longing for the experience of a shop, where the owner knows you. Our customers want to be in touch with us privately. If we want to be able to go back to this grocery store feeling, we need to be able to create it at scale. The only way we can do that is by leveraging technology.”

In real terms, this means customers get quick – and personal – answers. Passengers can use their normal chat apps to speak with KLM like a friend, with chat about seat changes slotted in amongst social conversations about nights out and what’s for dinner.

“KLM is there among friends. We are serious about conversations with passengers. Conversation is becoming vital to everything we do. We won’t stop here; it is only the beginning,” van der Lee said.

However, despite KLM’s technology focus, the human factor remains vital and people take over as soon as it gets too tough for AI. “Are humans supported by technology, or is it the other way around, where technology is supported by humans? Can technology offer human personal service? No, it can’t, but what it can deliver is speed, efficiency and fewer errors. For us it is a really fine line,” she concluded.

There are lots of other airline examples. Air France just started offering chewing gum to help with ear pain on take-off and landing, but they’ve done it with French flair: the two flavors are “pistachio-macaroon” and “crème brûlée.” The French carrier has also rolled out a pre-flight ‘advent calendar’ so younger passengers can count down to their holiday.

EasyJet – the UK low-cost carrier – has begun offering private jet-style handling, while KLM and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) are using technology to pass on travel tips from their cabin crew to their passengers.

It doesn’t take much to be different. Ultimately, the extra mile is never crowded.

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@penton.com

 

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