Air Asia and Touch-point Experience


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Candice Chee (Global CEM International Partner – Singapore) and her kids feel they were treated unsatisfactorily during an in-flight experience on Air Asia — during one of the touch-point experiences in the “In-Flight” life-stage. This section describes the difference between touch-point and sub-process, and explains why it is important for you to understand both when building a TCE Model.

Figure 1 – Touch-point Experiences and Attributes/Sub-processes—Airlines

My Air Asia Experience
by Candice Chee, Global CEM International Partner – Singapore

Living in Singapore, I am pampered by Singapore Airlines, so the thought of flying with budget airlines never crossed my mind until recently. Armed with a perception that their aircrafts were likely to be hand-me-downs and with stories of flight delays and no-frills in-flight experiences, I always avoided the budget carriers. Nevertheless, I decided to check out Air Asia two years ago for a family vacation, both out of curiosity and with the intention of exposing my children (and myself) to a less high-end flight experience.

The online booking for the Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong went smoothly. To my pleasant surprise, the flight actually departed on time and the aircraft was new and comfortable. As the flight would be short and we assumed that the in-flight meals would be unpalatable, we did not order any food for onboard consumption . However, we did ‘upload’ a packet of crackers to keep my youngest son occupied.

As soon as the seat belt sign was turned off, my son took out his crackers and began to dig into them happily. The flight attendant was quick to stop a group of passengers and my son from consuming the nibbles we had all brought onboard ourselves. His stern manner threw my son into a scramble as he tried to put away his crackers quickly. Lo and behold, a couple of the crackers dropped onto the carpet and he crushed them as he tried to compose himself. That got the flight attendant really upset. With much grousing, he picked up the crumbs with tons of tissues as if to make a point. My son’s gesture to help pick up the pieces was met with animosity. The rest of our flight was plagued with embarrassing stares and straight faces, so much so that we dared not even ask for a glass of water. We could not wait to leave the plane.

As I recall my flight experience with Air Asia today, this stark incident never fails to overshadow the safety, punctuality and physical comfort we had on the flight. While the airline had good hardware (new aircraft, comfortable seats) and software (online booking, punctuality) in place, unfortunately it was very lacking in ‘heart ware’ (service, attitude). Perhaps the attendant was acting on company instruction to generate F&B revenue? The intention may be right but the execution is surely wrong!

In hindsight, Air Asia had a great opportunity to refute my negative perceptions and apprehension about traveling with budget airlines. Yet, the whole experience was marred by the human touch, not by high technology. I am not sure if the airline has improved since then, but I am certain it will take us a while before we will give them a second chance to make the first impression right.”

Candice and her kids experienced the hardware (aircraft, physical comfort), software (process, no self-brought snacks allowed), and heart-ware (the unfriendly service and embarrassing stares) during their in-flight experience with Air Asia. That adventure certainly satisfied her curiosity about budget airlines in a negative manner. At the same time, her in-flight experience opens a Pandora’s box of confusion in distinguishing touch-point experience and sub-process.

Common Confusion between Touch-point Experience and Sub-process
While it is relatively easy to breakdown the entire customer lifecycle into different life-stages, it can be confusing to distinguish between a touch-point experience and a sub-process or an attribute. This confusion may drive inappropriate definition, mistaken categorization, and errors in measurement.

For example, it is tempting to identify “Food and Beverage (F&B)”, “In-Flight Entertainment (IFE)”, “Cabin crew service”, and “Seat comfort” as touch-point experiences because they are perceived by customers as important factors affecting their satisfaction and their likelihood of repeat purchase. As touch-point experiences, these four items would be at the same level as “TX6 – Check-in”, “TX7 – Lounge” and “TX8 – Gate”. In our opinion, “F&B”, “IFE”, “Crew”, and “Seat” should be grouped under the “TX9 – In-flight” experience as sub-processes or attributes rather than as independent touch-point experiences. Why?

Three Perspectives to Help Resolve the Confusion
At a pragmatic level, the primary aim of mapping the total customer experience at a macro level is identifying important touch-point experiences in terms of driving business results and focusing resources on these important touch-point experiences. After identifying touch-point experiences, you can drill down into each of them at a micro level to spot the MOTs (Moments of Truth) that influence customers’ emotions (feeling good about a purchase) and behaviors (buying your product or service). At the macro level, the “In-flight” experience is an important touch-point experience, and at the micro level, the MOTs during the In-flight experience, could be attributes like seat comfort, delicious meal, warm and friendly service, or rich choice of entertainment. In short, MOTs, all these detailed attributes, are not equal to the touch-point experience; they occur inside the experience.

Theoretically, a touch-point experience is an experience that occurs at a particular moment (Time) and in a particular space (Touch-point). Since “Food and Beverage (F&B)”, “In-Flight Entertainment (IFE)”, “Cabin crew services”, and “Seat comfort” all occur during the same timeframe (while you are inside the plane) and at the same Touch-point (in the cabin), it makes sense to group them together under one touch-point experience. They are the components that constitute the touch-point experience of “In-flight”; they themselves are not touch-point experiences.

From an operational perspective, an emotion curve [1] is difficult to draw whenever we confuse touch-point experiences with sub-processes. We can draw an emotion curve for an In-flight experience comprised of “Food and Beverage (F&B)”, “In-Flight Entertainment (IFE)”, “Cabin crew services”, and “Seat comfort” as shown in the red curve in Figure 1. However, it would not be appropriate to treat “F&B”, “IFE”, “Crew”, and “Seat” the same as “Check-in”, “Lounge”, and “Gate” as individual touch-point experiences. This destroys the original purpose of the emotion curve; the emotion curve drawn from this mistaken categorization will represent neither the total customer experience nor a single touch-point experience. It is almost impossible to manage and enhance customer experience if the experience is mis-categorized in the first step.

The next section, “Section FOUR: KLM (Air France) and the Static TCE (Total Customer Experience) Model“, shows that mapping all the relationships between each touch-point experience and its respective channels creates a two-dimensional and static TCE Model [2].


1. The Emotion Curve was invented and first put into practice by Mr. Sampson Lee, president of Global CEM (Global Customer Experience Management Organization), in 2006. It is one of the experience assessment and management tools of the U.S. patent-pending Branded Customer Experience Management Method registered by Global CEM. Emotion Curves map the customer emotions generated at each touch-point or sub-process and link them to form a curve reflecting the perceived experience across the entire customer lifecycle (covering all touch-points at stages of pre-purchase, at-purchase, and post-purchase) or at a specific touch-point (e.g. retail, call center, website, etc.). Unlike conventional approaches, which focus on enhancing efficiency and are process-centric, emotion curves represent genuine customer feelings by addressing emotions and the five senses in a natural time sequence from an experience perspective. It is a truly customer-centric experience assessment and management method. The statistical data represented by emotion curves is derived from a statistically significant number of X-VOC surveys and from the experience ratings for each touch-point or sub-process, and then evaluated by different target customer segments. The definitions and selection criteria for touch-points and sub-processes are based on vigorous and scientific research, methods, and sequential steps. An Emotion Curve shows how customers perceive an experience. It is a powerful tool for creating a branded customer experience strategy. Furthermore, with a simple curve, from CEO to receptionist, in the boardroom or in the mailroom, everyone in a company can easily understand and communicate customer experience levels using a common graphical language.

2. TCE (Total Customer Experience) Model is based on the United States patent-pending Branded Customer Experience Management Method invented by Sampson Lee, president of Global CEM (Global Customer Experience Management Organization), in 2007.

This document “Total Customer Experience (TCE) for Airlines” is composed of five sections. Part of the content of four sections are contributed by the Global CEM International Partners: Annemiek van Moorst from the Netherlands, Candice Chee from Singapore, John Chisholm from the United States, and Silvana Buljan from Spain, and in the foreword by Bob Thompson, CEO of CustomerThink, in the United States.

Section ONE: Total Customer Experience (TCE) for Airlines
Section TWO: Lufthansa and Total Customer Experience (TCE)
Section THREE: Air Asia and Touch-point Experience (current section)
Section FOUR: KLM (Air France) and the Static TCE (Total Customer Experience) Model
Section FIVE: American Airlines and the Dynamic TCE (Total Customer Experience) Model


  1. This is a very interesting and refreshing airline TCE “manuscript”. I don’t want to even regard to this great piece as an article. It has provided granular insight into often overlooked aspects of airline experience which is basically same in “content” in terms of framework but only different in “container” or context across the globe.

    I am glad again reading from Sampson Lee profound perspectives and the reach work of our senior partners at G-CEM. The approach is “edu-taining” – educative and entertaining so that you don’t get bored reading the intelligent analysis of the flight experiences. It has provided me a fresh dimension to some probable collaborative works I am proposing with some local airline operators in my country – precisely, Lagos, Nigeria.

    Thank you CustomerThink. I think your impact has been tremendous across the globe.


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