An Airline Gets On Board With Simplicity


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Delta Airlines has done something novel. They’ve rolled out a boarding pass travelers can actually understand.

The airline boarding pass is one of those classic examples of customer communications gone wrong. It’s something used by every traveler on every trip, yet airlines seem to be in a competition to create the most cryptic, perplexing boarding document.

As is the case with most customer communications, complexity comes with a cost. When travelers (particularly novice ones) can’t easily and correctly interpret boarding pass information, bad things happen. They go to the wrong gate. They arrive late for boarding. They misplace their second-leg boarding pass. In short, this complexity triggers frustration for the consumer and cost for the company.

So Delta decided to do something about it, rolling out a simplified boarding pass. And while this airline isn’t yet a poster child for customer experience excellence, they do deserve credit for making this particular touchpoint a little less confusing for their customers.

Delta’s Old Boarding Pass

Delta's Old Boarding Pass

Delta’s New Boarding Pass


The rationale behind their redesign is outlined in a recent Wall Street Journal article (“Rethinking the Lowly Boarding Pass“). The approach Delta took reflects several best practices for customer communications improvement:

1. Pay attention to design details.

If you want to create customer communications that are simple, engaging and refreshing – focus on more than just content development. The first impression your communication makes on a customer will come from its visual appeal, not its content. Delta rightfully paid close attention to visual cues in their boarding pass redesign, obsessing over things like typography, font sizes, headings and white space.

2. Look at the world through your customer’s eyes.

The best communications are designed with the primary user in mind. In this case, that’s not your Legal department, your Compliance specialist, or your marketing staff. It’s your customer. Before putting pen to paper, Delta first considered how customers interacted with boarding passes. That helped inform the design objectives – such as eliminating multiple boarding documents (because travelers misplace them) and accentuating the destination city (because travelers already know what city they’re leaving from).

3. Design with your employees in mind, too.

While customers may be the primary constituency served by a communication piece, employees are often a secondary audience. That’s because when customers have a question about a document, they’re likely to ask one of your employees for assistance. So make it easy for your staff to locate the information they need off the document, in order to better serve your customer. For Delta’s boarding pass, this meant displaying the passenger’s first name first and last name last, making it easier for employees to spot that information and address customers by name.

When it comes to creating a great brand experience, customer communications rarely get the respect they deserve. Things like boarding passes, bills, statements, contracts, and product instructions represent high-frequency customer touchpoints for many businesses – yet they are often treated as boring, administrative documents.

What impression do your customer communications leave on people? Do they inspire confidence in your company? Do they reaffirm the purchase decision? Do they reflect positively on your brand?

If not, then it’s time for you to get on board with customer communications that are simple, clear and engaging.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jon Picoult
As Founder of Watermark Consulting, Jon Picoult helps companies impress customers and inspire employees. An acclaimed keynote speaker, Jon’s been featured by dozens of media outlets, including The Wall St Journal and The New York Times. He’s worked with some of the world’s foremost brands, personally advising CEOs and executive teams.Learn more at or follow Jon on Twitter.


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